Check out Barn Tours on Horse Racing Nation
Richard Baltas enters the final week of the marathon Santa Anita winter-spring meet as the track's third-ranked trainer by earnings with $2,253,840, trailing only Bob Baffert and Phil D’Amato.
Ahead of the Southern California circuit’s move to Los Alamitos next week, followed by Del Mar on July 16, Horse Racing Nation caught up with the veteran trainer to see what might lie ahead for several of his notable runners, including one that is targeting Saratoga.
Venetian Harbor. Winner of last year’s Raven Run (G2) and Las Virgenes (G2), she made her first start since the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in the June 5 Monrovia (G2) on turf. It was a sparkling comeback. The daughter of Munnings broke on top and took the field all the way around before being geared down late to win by 3 1/2 lengths. The final time for 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf was 1:15.06.
“It was great to see her come back like that as a 4-year-old,” Baltas said. “(The Monrovia) was the right timing. It was on the turf, a Grade 2, a hundred thousand. So it was a good race for her to come back in. She’s very versatile; she’ll run on turf or dirt.”
“I think we’ll keep her around one turn,” he said.
“He had a minor setback, and we gave him 60 days off, but he’s back in training,” Baltas said. “We’ll probably point towards something at Del Mar, possibly the Pacific Classic (G1). But who knows at this point? I’m going to work back from the Breeders’ Cup, but he’ll need to get a start before then.”
Whisper Not. After collecting his first graded-stakes win in the San Francisco Mile (G3), he took on the turf elite in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) and checked in fifth.
“Yeah, he did get a class test and was three-wide the whole time,” Baltas said. “But with that being said, I don’t know where we’re going to run him next. We’re looking at races at Del Mar and back east as well. We’re just trying to put our heads together. But he’s doing well. Came out of the race good.”
Next Shares. While Whisper Not disappointed in the Shoemaker Mile, Next Shares did not. The 8-year-old gelding outran his odds to get fourth at 18-1.
“He did run well. He seems to be really happy,” Baltas said. “I sent him back down to San Luis Rey Downs. I may even run him in the Wickerr at Del Mar. He fits that condition.”
The $80,000-added Wickerr Stakes is one mile on turf July 18. It is restricted to horses who have not won a sweepstakes worth more than $50,000 other than state-bred.
Masteroffoxhounds. After winning the San Marcos (G2) and running third in the San Luis Rey (G3) this year at Santa Anita, he was sent east to hunt bigger game with only limited success. The 4-year-old colt checked in eighth in the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day but came back with an improved effort to be fourth in the Manhattan (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
“I was really happy with his race in New York,” Baltas said. “He got impeded at the end and might have even run third. It was a very good race.”
The $300,000 Del Mar Handicap (G2) going 1 3/8 miles on Aug. 21 is his next assignment.
Noble Reflection. He romped in a front-running maiden win by 4 1/2 lengths at Oaklawn Park on March 7, completing six furlongs in 1:09.4 to earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 89. With the connections admittedly catching a bit of Kentucky Derby fever, he was sent straight to the Lexington Stakes (G2) at Keeneland, where he checked in fifth. That followed with a try in the Pat Day Mile (G2), where he finished last. The chart notes, “early speed, folded up.”
“You know with these 3-year-olds you get excited,” Baltas said. “It doesn’t always work out.”
Owned by Calvin Nguyen and Joey Tran, the son of Liam’s Map returned to California after the Pat Day and is at a farm getting a break.
“He’s about ready to come back,” Baltas said.