In a pair of interviews to open the week, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert provided some insight on what’s next for his top 3-year-old colts on their way to the 2020 Kentucky Derby.
Baffert has saddled five horses thus far to earn qualifying points toward the May 2 race at Churchill Downs — but it’s a colt who hasn’t made it to stakes company yet drawing quite a bit of buzz.
Nadal put in his first work Tuesday since a Jan. 19 debut victory at Santa Anita Park, where he won by 3 3/4 lengths while going 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.82. The son of Blame has since plummeted to 10-1 at William Hill U.S. to win the Derby.
Baffert said he hasn’t decided on race plans for Nadal, adding that “I nominate everywhere.” Oaklawn Park’s Feb. 17 Southwest Stakes (G3) is an option, or connections could wait longer.
“He’s a month ahead, so he’s good,” Baffert quipped, given the 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify waited until February for his unveiling.
Nadal received a 98 Beyer Speed Figure, a few ticks off the Justify’s 104 on debut.
“The thing about (Nadal), most of my horses,” Baffert said, “before I start them I like to put a really good foundation under them — especially the really good ones — so when you do run them, if they run fast it’s not going to take much out of them.”
In terms of colts on the Derby leader board, Thousand Words kicks things off for Baffert after a victory in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) last Saturday. That followed his Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) score. Overall, the $1 million son of Pioneerof the Nile is 3-for-3.
Baffert Told Byk that Thousand Words is the type of horse that will “throw the clockers off” in the morning. But in the afternoon, “He just gets better the further they go, and he’s going to do just enough to get the job done.”
Having sat in behind horses most of the way in the Lewis, Thousand Words split horses in the stretch and ground his way to a 3/4-length victory. High Velocity, a Baffert-trained stakes winner at seven furlongs, tired after setting the pace but still finished a close third.
Next, Thousand Words could meet stablemate Authentic in the March 7 San Felipe Stakes (G2), California’s first major Derby prep offering 50 points to its winner. Authentic is 2-for-2 having won the Sham Stakes (G3) back on Jan. 4 by 7 3/4 lengths despite running plenty green down the lane.
“We don’t know how good he is,” Baffert said.
Debut winner Azul Coast ran second in the Sham, with Baffert joking that he was so far behind, “He thought he won.” Azul Coast could get another stakes chance in Sunday’s San Vicente (G2) or could ship north for the Feb. 15 El Camino Real Derby.
Plans now appear to be up in the air for the only Grade 1 winner — so far — in this bunch. On Monday, Baffert told Tim Wilkin of New York’s Albany Times Union that Eight Rings, last see in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, is behind schedule to make a comeback race like Oaklawn Park’s March 14 Rebel Stakes (G2).
Eight Rings, who was last seen running a disappointing sixth in @BreedersCup Juvenile, had the March 14 Rebel at Oaklawn as a goal for return race. "He won't make it," trainer Bob Baffert said. "He just started galloping again."— Tim Wilkin (@tjwilkin) February 3, 2020
When asked if Eight Rings could get on the Triple Crown trail, Baffert said this: "We are still in February. We still have a chance."— Tim Wilkin (@tjwilkin) February 3, 2020