Charlatan enters Kentucky Derby conversation with 105 Beyer

Charlatan enters Kentucky Derby conversation with 105 Beyer
Photo: Benoit

Two years ago, Justify debuted the Sunday after Valentine’s Day, winning a seven-furlong race with ease at Santa Anita Park. He received a 104 Beyer Speed Figure.

Like his Triple Crown-winning counterpart, Charlatan was later to the races, appearing this most recent Sunday after Valentine’s Day in a six-furlong victory at Santa Anita. The winning Beyer was a 105, fastest by five points for any 3-year-old to race in 2020.

Comparisons will continue into the spring for Bob Baffert’s latest emerging sophomore — seems like there’s one a week, right? — after both Justify and Charlatan also had Drayden Van Dyke riding.

“Baffert knows the horse, and we’ll see where he is in two or three or four weeks,” said Starlight Racing’s Jack Wolf, who campaigns Charlatan in partnership. “I would guess he’d like to do one of the preps.”

There’s not much of a plan yet considering Charlatan outran expectations.

Wolf walked into the paddock asking Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes who he liked. Barnes held up two fingers, an indication the Richard Mandella-trained favorite, Lane Way, would be tough.

Off as the second choice, Charlatan instead went out to set the pace, never giving his rivals a chance. After opening up in 21.89 and 44.72, the colt stopped the clock in 1:08.85 under what the official chart deemed “a long hold.”

"We knew he was a really fast horse," Baffert said in Monday's Santa Anita stable notes. “His gate works were very impressive He worked 1:12 and two (fifths) from the gate (on Jan. 22) with an older horse and that tipped them off, but I thought he still might need one.

"He still looks a little soft, and until they run, you don’t know. But he was pretty impressive.”

“Especially after he broke a little bit tardy, it was a little bit concerning seeing him do the fractions, but he was doing it so easily,” Wolf said. “I think it was a little bit of a surprise.”

Justify went from his own debut victory to win a one-mile allowance race, then leapt into the preps by taking the Santa Anita Derby (G1).

Charlatan will have similar options ahead. Given his sire line, the March 7 Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct around one turn may also look appealing.

Starlight -- who counts among its partners in this colt SF Racing, Madaket Stables and breeder Stonestreet -- uses the retired trainer Frank Brothers as a bloodstock agent.

“He thinks the horse will run all day based on the bottom side of the pedigree,” Wolf said. “We’ll sure give it a try.”

Charlatan’s dam, Authenticity, is by Quiet American. She won multiple graded stakes around two turns, and among her progeny is Hanalei Moon, who took Kentucky Downs’ One Dreamer Stakes last year going a mile and 70 yards.

Baffert’s brigade of 3-year-old colts has added Charlatan to a list that includes Derby trail stakes winners Thousand Words, Authentic, Eight Rings and Azul Coast. Nadal, another late-debuting type, will also hit the trail after winning the recent San Vicente (G2) around one turn.

“You know what? Right now, I’m still not talking about it too much,” Baffert said. “I’ve got to figure out where I’m going to run them. Everybody keeps asking me every day, ‘What are you going to do?’ I know what I’m going to do, but only I know.

“Things change and I don’t want to jinx them.”

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