World Cups may be on the horizon for McKinzie, Roadster

November 05, 2019 12:49pm

It’s usually this time of year that trainer Bob Baffert says goodbye to a number of his top trainees as the colts heading to stud and the fillies settle into careers as broodmares. But this time, his barn will bring back essentially all of its top prospects for another go in 2020.

“It would have been nice to win one, especially at your home track,” Baffert said exiting the Breeders’ Cup, where none of his four horses won, but McKinzie finished a runner-up in the $6 million Classic. “It’s tough, but they run them every year. We’ll just have to regroup.”

The Hall of Famer is poised to do so, starting with McKinzie, who will return next season at age 5. The new $20 million Saudi Cup, a 1 1/8-mile race run on Feb. 29, is “definitely” a target, Baffert said, with the race also mentioned for horses such as Maximum Security, Bravazo and Gronkowski in recent weeks.

Beyond that, McKinzie could stay overseas for the Dubai World Cup (G1) in March, which would stretch him back out to 1 1/4 miles. While Vino Rosso shot by for a 4 1/4-length victory in the Classic, McKinzie hit the wire ahead of previous 10-furlong winners Higher Power and Elate in the Classic.

“He beat a lot of those other horses that can get a mile and a quarter, so I think we can throw that out of the way,” Baffert said.

On Saturday’s undercard, Baffert got the Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Roadster back to the races for the first time since June. He ran second by a nose to Grade 1-placed Flagstaff going seven furlongs in the Damascus Stakes.

“I probably should have run him in the mile race a couple days before that, but he came out of it really well,” Baffert said. “He still ran a very courageous race. The horse that beat him is a real quality sprinter.”

Baffert said he’ll look to Churchill Downs’ Nov. 29 Clark (G1) or the Dec. 7 Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct as next race options for the 3-year-old son of Quality Road, who also might wind up as the barn’s contender for the 2020 Pegasus World Cup (G1) on Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park.

Baffert’s other 3-year-old Saturday contender, Improbable, finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, running evenly throughout.

“One thing about him — he behaved himself,” Baffert said, with the son of City Zip bringing in a history of gate issues. “But going that mile, he got behind and didn’t handle the kickback too well.”

Improbable left Monday for WinStar Farm in Kentucky and a freshening. He’ll be back in 2020, too.

Baffert hasn’t closed the door on his 2-year-old Breeders’ Cup contenders running again this season after Bast played a part in the pace, then stayed on for third in the Juvenile Fillies. Eight Rings, however, disappointed when fading to sixth in the Juvenile off a victory in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1).

“He came back all right. He’s fine,” the trainer said. “They’ll do that. I thought I had him prepped. When they run like that, that means we didn’t have him ready.

“He’s a really special horse. He just didn’t show up.”

Should the 2-year-olds run again, the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and Starlet Stakes (G1) run on Dec. 7. Baffert swept the events last year, winning his fifth straight Futurity and record 11th edition overall.

The trainer said he’s a couple weeks away from determining whether Bast and Eight Rings will continue on or await 2020 targets.

And all of this is not to mention the impending return of Game Winner, last year’s champion 2-year-old male who was last seen winning the Los Alamitos Derby (G1). He will have a 4-year-old campaign before retiring to Lane’s End Farm.


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