Roadster leads Baffert 3-year-olds into second prep season

June 15, 2019 10:51am

Having missed out on adding another Triple Crown race victory to his resume this year, trainer Bob Baffert’s beginning to eye the second half of the season with his top 3-year-olds.

The march to events like Monmouth’s July 20 Haskell Invitational (G1) and the Aug. 24 Travers Stakes (G1) begins Sunday when he saddles half of a six-horse field in Santa Anita Park’s Father’s Day feature, the Grade 3, $100,000 Affirmed Stakes.

The Affirmed marks the return of Roadster, the Santa Anita Derby (G1) hero who ran 16th on the first Saturday in May.

“I don’t know if it was the mud or what, but he never tried,” Baffert said. “I want to bring him back, give him a race and see if we can learn more about him. It’s a good spot here. Then after this we can think about the Haskell or something like that.”

Roadster, “a light horse anyway,” used a brief freshening between races to pack on the pounds.

“He’s sound, he’s healthy, and he looks good,” Baffert said. “We’ll see what he does.”

The winner of three races from five starts reunites with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who hopped off intending to ride scratched Derby morning line favorite Omaha Beach. The duo will break from the No. 5 stall, just inside of Baffert’s second choice on the Affirmed morning line.

Mucho Gusto, who’s 4-for-6, won Santa Anita’s Lazaro Barrera (G3) back on May 17. With another week between races, Baffert would have sent Michael Lund Petersen’s top colt East for the Easy Goer on Belmont Stakes day.

“In his last race he ran hard at 7/8s, and the Easy Goer would have been a one-turn elongated race,” the trainer said. “I’ll run him here around two turns, and then maybe he can hit some of those summer derbies — that type of horse.”

Baffert’s third Affirmed entry, Kingly, is the full brother of Mohaymen who two starts back won Golden Gate Fields’ California Derby. He has never finished out of the money in five starts and returns to dirt in this spot after three starts over the synthetic in Northern California.

Race 8 on Sunday, the 1 1/16-mile Affirmed’s listed post time is 8:09 p.m. ET.

While Roadster could be the barn’s Haskell prospect, Baffert has fifth-place Derby finisher Game Winner on a collision course with the Travers, with a to-be-announced prep race in between.

“I put a little blinker back on him, and he looks better,” Baffert said, with the son of Candy Ride winless in three starts this season after a 4-for-4 juvenile campaign. “I think he’s getting his form back that he had. That race at Oaklawn (the Rebel) knocked him back a little bit when he had to ship there. But our main goal is the Travers.

“I still think he’s one of the best 3-year-olds in the country, but he’s going to have to prove it.”

The Los Alamitos Derby (G3) runs July 13, while Saratoga's local Travers prep, the Jim Dandy (G2), goes July 27.

Improbable, off as the betting favorite in the Derby and Preakness Stakes, is another unbeaten Grade 1 winner at 2 who has yet to break back through in 2019. He’s back to the track after running in two-thirds of the Triple Crown.

“He looks great. No plans yet for him. We just got him back,” Baffert said. “We gave him a few weeks off — freshened him. He wasn’t doing much. I haven’t discussed it with the team yet.”


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