Baffert hopes 'they run to their odds' in Del Mar Futurity pursuit

Baffert hopes 'they run to their odds' in Del Mar Futurity pursuit
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

The impressive victory by Bast in Saturday’s Del Mar Debutante (G1) has given Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a chance at sweeping the season-ending races that determine the summer meet's juvenile division champions.

If either Eight Rings, the 5-2 morning line favorite, or Garth, the 5-1 co-third choice, win Monday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Futurity, it would be the sixth time Baffert trainees will have accomplished the feat.

The others, in chronological order: Vivid Angel-Souvenir Copy (1997), Excellent Meeting-Worldly Manner (1998), Chilukki-Forest Camp (1999), Habibti-Officer (2001) and Executive Privilege-Rolling Fog (2012).

Bast provided Baffert with his eighth Debutante victory but his first since Executive Privilege seven years earlier. The filly, a daughter of Uncle Mo who was a $500,000 purchase at auction in August of 2018, took the lead on the turn in the seven-furlong Debutante and left the pursuit 8 ¾ lengths in arrears when she crossed the finish line under Drayden Van Dyke.

“The Baffert filly just ran a super race,” said Juan Leyva, assistant to trainer John Sadler, who saddled runner-up Inspiressa. “Our filly ran well, but it wasn’t her day.”

Baffert said Bast came out of the race, “like nothing happened,” and licked the feed tub clean. Leyva reported that Inspiressa also came out of the race in good order.

So it’s on to Monday’s Futurity, where Baffert is seeking to extend his record number of victories to 15. Safe to say racing historians would have to take a deep dive into the books to find a trainer who has counted that many wins in a race of similar import.

Baffert won seven straight from 1996 to 2002 then had a five-year lapse through the first year of the Polytrack era and has been a major presence whether the surface was synthetic or, since 2015, back on dirt.

With the exception of 2010, Baffert has won the Futurity every even-numbered year since 2008. The list reads: Midshipman (2008), Rolling Fog (2012), American Pharoah (2014), Klimt (2016) and Game Winner last year.

Baffert also threw in odd-year wins with Lookin At Lucky (2009) and Drill (2011). And in recent years there’s been a pattern for Baffert’s Futurity winners that both Eight Rings and Garth fit to extend. That is: run once over the track, often a racing debut, then go straight to the Futurity.

In 2008, Midshipman won at first asking as the 3-1 favorite and went on to win the Futurity at 6-1. Most famously, American Pharoah  was fifth in his racing debut but returned to win the Futurity to start a winning streak that carried him to becoming the first Triple Crown champion in 37 years.

Eight Rings, a $520,000 purchase at the Keeneland September sale a year ago, was the talk of the backstretch when the meet opened and fired two bullet works here before the son of Empire Maker made his racing debut August 4. He took the 5 ½ furlong maiden special by 6 ¼ lengths, earning a 94 Beyer figure, while Drayden Van Dyke was more passenger than pilot.

Garth, a Godolphin homebred son of Into Mischief, strung together four bullet works before his initial start on August 10. Sent out at odds of  1-5, Garth bobbled at the start, ranged up to lead by a head entering the stretch, then finished second to fellow Futurity entrant Storm the Court.

“They’re both doing well, one will be favored and the other will be close, so I just hope they run to their odds,” Baffert said earlier this week. “Garth’s race was a real head-scratcher. We thought for sure he would win, but before they run you never know.”

2019 Del Mar Futurity (G1)

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