Eight Rings' Futurity 'a shame'; Grade 1 redemption next?

September 04, 2019 12:06pm

Amid a thoroughbred training career spanning 30 years, Bob Baffert figured “there’s nothing more I can see that I haven’t already, and then this happened.”

This, being the events of Monday’s Del Mar Futurity (G1) that saw odds-on favorite Eight Rings duck in and toss jockey Drayden Van Dyke not long after leaving the starting gate.

What could have marked Baffert’s 15th Futurity victory, the emergence of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile favorite and a top prospect for next year’s Triple Crown series resulted in a “Did Not Finish.”

“It’s one of those things,” Baffert said. “They’re 2-year-olds. They’re green. I don’t know — that inner parking lot, there’s a lot of stuff going on there. He saw something and made that duck.

“…He’s never done anything like that in his workouts, but when you’re going 7/8s, that Del Mar rail has always been a problem.”

Peter Miller, who trains Nucky, the Futurity winner, had a horse jump the inner rail last November at Del Mar. Baffert was also reminded of Drefong dumping his rider in the 2017 Bing Crosby (G1), though that happened just past the chute, where there was a gap to the main track.

In Monday's melee, Eight Rings bumped into Storm the Court, who also lost rider Flavien Prat.

“It’s a shame,” Baffert added of Eight Rings, who entered the Futurity off a dominating 6 1/4-length maiden victory at Del Mar going 5 1/2 furlongs. The runner-up that day, Express Train, stretched to a mile for his second start and won by 14 1/4 lengths.

Eight Rings “got some pretty good scrapes and cuts on him,” and Baffert said it will be a week or so before he can begin training seriously again. Despite dumping Van Dyke, the son of Empire Maker ran the full Del Mar Futurity distance sans rider.

Baffert’s second Del Mar Futurity contender, Garth, finished sixth, 29 3/4 lengths behind Nucky. Godolphin’s homebred suffered an entrapped epiglottis, the breathing issue that often requires surgery to repair.

“I want to forget that one,” Baffert said of the Futurity, adding with a laugh, “I should have gone home after the Debutante.”

Two days earlier, the juvenile filly Bast broke her maiden in the Grade 1 companion to the Futurity, winning by 8 3/4 lengths. Her final time of 1:23.73 for seven furlongs was nearly two seconds faster than Nucky’s 1:25.52.

“I’ll tell you what — Eight Rings, he was going to look pretty good, too,” Baffert said. “It was disappointing, but that’s horse racing. That’s why we run these races. That’s why I never like to get high on a horse or get comfortable.

"They’re not going to give it to you. You still have to run the race."

Both Eight Rings and Bast will target Sept. 27 stakes at Santa Anita Park, which hosts the American Pharoah (G1) and Chandelier (G1) for fillies.


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