'Superstar material'; Baffert trains Charlatan for stakes debut

The latest Bob Baffert hype horse, Charlatan, appears bound for stakes company next out. But where?

In a conversation this week with NBC Sports' Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey, Baffert said the 2-for-2 colt is pointing for the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G1) -- with one caveat.

"By that time, I think we might find out about Santa Anita," he said, alluding to the local halt to racing and postponement of the Santa Anita Derby (G1).

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the California track suspended racing indefinitely on March 17 at the direction of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Officials are looking into what can be done to resume operations as training continues there.

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Charlatan, who did not run as a 2-year-old, has won both his starts this season by open lengths, beginning comparisons to the 2018 Triple Crown winner also trained by Baffert: Justify.

Baffert said he would rather not run Charlatan in the same event as the 3-for-3 Rebel Stakes (G2) winner Nadal, who also is probable for the Arkansas Derby.

"If we could separate them, it’d be better," he told NBC Sports. "We’re hoping for a split, maybe, we don’t know, but that’s just talk. But right now, he’s doing really well. He’s the only one who doesn’t have any points, and so it’d be nice to have him get some points.”

Baffert said Charlatan's last outing, a 1-mile allowance optional claiming race at Santa Anita, proved that he can handle added distance.

"He actually came out of it really well," Baffert said of Charlatan, a son of Speightstown who has routing influences on his pedigree's bottom side. "I think he really needed that second race. I think it would have been tough for him to go into a two-turn stake race second time out."

Asked how he would compare Charlatan to Justify, Baffert said: “I think he’s just a smaller version of him. The superstardom is there on him. But I really think my three horses I have, Authentic, Nadal, they’re all superstar material.”

As for Authentic, Baffert says he's "going to just back off." Another unbeaten colt, he runs for the same ownership group as Charlatan and had been pointing for the Santa Anita Derby on its original date last Saturday.

Baffert mentioned Santa Anita's Affirmed Stakes (G3), currently scheduled for June 14, as an option.

"I’m going to sort of put him in the same routine that I did with Arrogate to get him ready for the Travers," the trainer said.

Noting that Authentic is a May foal and "light-bodied," he said, "I could get him ready like in three works, he could be ready to roll because he has that physical [build], where a heavier horse, you can’t back off too much on him.”

As for the bigger picture on the West Coast, Baffert said Santa Anita "jumped on this like a month ago," just before elevating coronavirus cases put a stop to just about every sport in America except for horse racing.

"We started getting really tight with everything," Baffert said. "That’s why it was really surprising...that the LA County shut us down because we were really, really good about staying away from each other and washing hands.

“...I really think in about two weeks, I think all this should be dying down, I think we’ll probably get more information. … We have to open some of these economies. That’s why I really thought that horse racing is a perfect model for that.”

2020 Arkansas Derby (G1)

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