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Bob Baffert looks for Preakness upset with Collected

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BALTIMORE (AP) Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert hopes Collected will deliver more than another “opening act” in the Preakness on Saturday at Pimlico.

Baffert and his charismatic colt American Pharoah won the Preakness on their way to a sweep of the Triple Crown last year.

But Baffert is short on horsepower for the current 3-year-old classics.

“Last year we were the headliner,” Baffert quipped before the Kentucky Derby. “Now we’re the opening act.”

Mor Spirit, Baffert’s Derby horse, was a not-ready-for-prime-time runner that finished 10th.

Now Baffert goes to the bench with Collected, winner of the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes and the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in his last two outings.

The colt faces the top of the division for the first time.

“It’s going to be a step up for him,” Baffert said. “He is fast, but there are a lot of fast horses in there. We feel like he deserves a chance. We never thought about the Derby with him, but he’s the kind of horse that brings it every time.”

He faces a field led by Nyquist, the Derby winner with an 8-0 record, and Exaggerator, the Santa Anita Derby winner.

Collected started his career on the turf, winning his debut at Santa Anita before finishing second in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at Del Mar in late November.

All five stakes this year have been on dirt.

He made a smooth surface transition, capturing the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita in January. That peaked Baffert’s interest to try the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in February.

Collected ran fourth there, and Baffert started hunting for softer spots, and got those confidence-building stakes wins in New Mexico and Kentucky.

Now he’s facing harder competition.

“He’s going to be tough to beat,” Baffert said of Nyquist. “The only way we can beat him is either he doesn’t bring his A Game or there’s some racing luck.”

Baffert knows he’ll need good fortune on Saturday to spring a Preakness upset.

“We got beat up a little bit (in the Derby), so we’re trying something else,” he said. “The Preakness is a fun race, and I feel that we have a horse that’s competitive.”

Baffert has six Preakness wins, tying D. Wayne Lukas for second on the all-time list. R.W. Walden set the record with seven in the late 1800s.

Baffert was asked if it was weird returning to Pimlico one year removed from the Triple Crown.

“I’ve come in here weird many years,” said the white-haired trainer, joking.

Collected would be Baffert’s first Preakness winner that didn’t run in the Derby.

Arrogate remains on course for Pacific Classic at Del Mar

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DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) Bob Baffert wasn’t beating himself up a day after Arrogate’s upset loss in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar that snapped the seven-race winning streak of the world’s top-ranked horse.

The Hall of Fame trainer said Sunday that other than getting a lot of dirt in his eyes and mouth the 4-year-old colt emerged in good physical condition after finishing fourth, beaten by 15 \ lengths as the 1-20 favorite.

Baffert says that as long as Arrogate continues working out well and nothing comes up, the colt will run in the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19 at Del Mar. Baffert says Arrogate “will be ready next time.”

Arrogate was never better than fourth among the five-horse field during the race. Accelerate led all the way and won by 8 + lengths.

Arrogate soundly beaten by Accelerate in stunner at Del Mar

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DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) Mike Smith tried everything he could with Arrogate. He moved the colt to the outside, but he didn’t pick up the pace. Smith dropped him down near the rail before wheeling him outside once more.

Nothing worked.

“He just wasn’t trying,” the Hall of Fame jockey said.

Accelerate stunned overwhelming favorite Arrogate to win the $300,000 San Diego Handicap by 8 1/2 lengths Saturday at Del Mar, snapping the seven-race winning streak of the world’s top-ranked horse.

Arrogate finished fourth, beaten by 15 1/4 lengths in the 4-year-old colt’s first race since March 25 in Dubai.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Smith said. “He was just flat, so flat.”

His trainer, Bob Baffert, was blunter, saying Arrogate “laid an egg.”

It wasn’t the first time Accelerate got the best of Arrogate. Last year at Los Alamitos, Accelerate beat Arrogate by a neck in the colt’s career debut in a race won by another horse. It was Arrogate’s lone loss until Saturday.

“I thought he’d run better than that,” Baffert said, “but he just didn’t want to go.”

Accelerate lived up to his name, leading all the way while covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.15.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Accelerate paid $17.60, $32.60 and $22 as the 7-1 second choice in the field of five.

“He got in a nice rhythm; he was going easy,” said Espinoza, aboard for the first time. “I was surprised by how far I won. I wasn’t surprised that I did; I was here to win.”

Donworth, a 24-1 shot, returned $119.80 and $67.40. His payoffs were a track record, bettering the old mark of $101.60 and $40.20 set by Cipria on Sept. 1, 1955.

Baffert-trained Cat Burglar paid $38.20 to show.

All but $214,466 of the $2,671,938 total win, place and show pool wagering was bet on Arrogate, the 1-20 favorite.

Arrogate’s winning streak included the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic last year, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup and the $10 million Dubai World Cup. He earned $18,000, boosting his career total to $17,102,600, a North American record.

It wasn’t the first time Baffert had led a world-beater to the track only to watch him lose.

That’s what happened in 2015, when American Pharoah was stunned by Keen Ice in the Travers barely two months after becoming horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

“That’s why my hair is white,” Baffert quipped after the race.

Under the race’s handicap conditions, Arrogate carried high weight of 126 pounds, spotting Accelerate nine pounds. But Baffert said the weight difference had nothing to do with the result.

Heading to the rail beforehand, Accelerate’s trainer, John Sadler, said he thought the race would be closer than people thought.

“You want to win, you don’t want to concede anything, but I’m surprised we won because Arrogate is the best horse in the world,” Sadler said. “A couple of things went right for us and one of them was that Arrogate didn’t fire his best. That’s what has to happen for these big upsets.”

With Accelerate setting the pace, Smith had Arrogate last through the opening half-mile before they began making their move into the far turn. But Arrogate’s rally was brief while Accelerate cruised to the finish line in front of a shocked crowd at the seaside oval north of San Diego.

Arrogate will have a chance to turn the tables in the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19, when the two colts are expected to meet again.

“We’ve got to go back and start over again,” Smith said. “Get it back right.”