Eight Rings receives new Kentucky Derby 2020 trail target

December 09, 2019 03:13pm
Unsatisfied with Eight Rings' training since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, trainer Bob Baffert said the Empire Maker colt will be freshened and point to a return to the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail in the March 14 Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park. It’s a path similar to what Baffert took with American Pharoah, bringing him off the bench in the Rebel as a 3-year-old prior to the 2015 Triple Crown run. 

“I think I’m going to wait with him,” Baffert said of Eight Rings. “Do like American Pharoah and give him that extra time.” Eight Rings had worked three times following a disappointing sixth-place effort in the Juvenile, including five-furlong drill in 1:00 at Santa Anita on Dec. 1 that was the third-fastest of 46 at the distance. All signs indicated he was set to go in this past Saturday’s Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), but when entries were taken, Eight Rings' name was nowhere to be found. “I’m still puzzled by his race in the Breeders’ Cup -- just really upset about that,” Baffert said. “And to me, training up to the Futurity, he just wasn’t doing it the way I wanted him to do it. So I thought, you know what? Let’s stop on him and give him a break and get him back to where he was.” In the Juvenile, Eight Rings prompted the pace through the opening 3/4 of a mile before fading in the stretch. A win would have been the fifth in the Juvenile for Baffert, tying the all-time record held by D. Wayne Lukas.  “Turning for home, I was preparing my winner’s speech,” Baffert said. “But then he didn’t show up. These horses, they’ll fool you. But this is such a good horse I want to make sure and take my time.” A $520,000 yearling purchase, Eight Rings was a debut winner by 6 ¼-lengths  at Del Mar on Aug. 4. He returned a month later and made the odds-on favorite in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), but right after the start he veered in sharply and dumped Drayden Van Dyke. Eight Rings rebounded to win the American Pharoah (G1) at Santa Anita prior to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Eight Rings closed at 24-1 in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager earlier this month and was trading at 25-1 in the William Hill winter book as of Saturday.

In the Rebel, he already has a possible Grade 1-winning opponent. Connections say Hopeful Stakes (G1) hero Basin will also get his 2020 season started in the Rebel, which awards Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 50-20-10-5 scale. Win, and it's on on the first Saturday in May with the April 11 Arkansas Derby (G1) the other major local prep.


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