The Grade II, $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes, for 3-year-olds at one mile on turf, attracted an evenly matched group of eight and is headed by 3-1 morning line favorite Midnight Crooner, one of two Bob Baffert-trained entrants.
Owned and bred in Kentucky by Arnold Zetcher, Midnight Crooner has two wins from three lifetime tries at one mile on turf, including a victory in a division of the Oceanside Stakes on July 18 at Del Mar. Idle since running ninth in the Grade II Del Mar Derby on Sept. 2, Midnight Crooner, by War Chant, will be ridden for the first time by Martin Garcia. His record stands at 8-3-0-1, with earnings of $128,765.
Baffert will also send out Gary and Mary West’s Conspiracy, a son of Giant’s Causeway. Previously trained by Chad Brown, Conspiracy has one win from four starts.
Fit to Rule, a smashing 9 ½-length maiden winner going 1 1/16 miles on synthetic Cushion Track Nov. 24, is well drawn at the rail and tries turf for the first time. Trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden again by Edwin Maldonado, the Kentucky-bred colt by Hard Spun has a mark of 6-1-1-1. He is owned by George Bolton and Fog City Stable.
Big Bane Theory and Silentio, trained by Carla Gaines and Gary Mandella, both have solid turf credentials. While never a factor at 18-1 in the Grade I Hollywood Derby on Nov. 25, “Big Bane” was a neck shy of being 3-3 going into the Derby and will look to rebound under Joe Talamo. Owned by Devereaux or Gross, he has earnings of $93,720 from a record of 4-2-0-1.
Silentio has been freshened since Oct. 12, when he ran a close-up third going 1 1/8 miles at odds of 5-2. A Kentucky-bred son of the Sunday Silence stallion Silent Name, Silentio is 3-2-0-1, with earnings of $75,960. He’s owned by his breeders, Wertheimer and Frere.
Like Big Bane Theory and Silentio, Smart Ellis has also been lined at 9-2 by White. Trained by Richard Mandella, he was 12th in the Hollywood Derby after encountering trouble at the break and into the stretch. Seven of his nine lifetime starts have been on turf and his best races make him a legitimate threat. He’ll be handled for the first time by multiple Eclipse Award-winning jockey Julien Leparoux. By Smarty Jones, he was bred in Kentucky by his owners, Wertheimer and Frere. He has earnings of $115,590 from a record of 9-2-1-1.
Mike Smith will again ride the talented Battle Force, who broke his maiden going a mile on turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 4 and was third, beaten 1 ¾ lengths, as the even money favorite in the Grade III Generous Stakes on Nov.27. Smith will hope to have a lively pace to run at, as the son of Giant’s Causeway is best suited when allowed to make a big run from well off the pace. Owned by Woodford Racing, LLC, he’s trained by John Shirreffs. Battle Force has a record of 4-1-2-1, with earnings of $57,600.
The complete field for the Sir Beaufort Stakes, to be run as race five, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Fit to Rule, Edwin Maldonado, 118; Press Baron, Victor Espinoza, 118; Smart Ellis, Julien Leparoux, 118; Big Bane Theory, Joe Talamo, 118; Midnight Crooner, Martin Garcia, 118; Conspiracy, Garrett Gomez, 118; Battle Force, Mike Smith, 118, and Silentio, Rafael Bejarano, 118.