Getty Images

Bob Baffert looks for Preakness upset with Collected

Leave a comment

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.

Baffert hoping Arrogate gives him third Dubai World Cup win

Getty Images
Leave a comment

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Having taken over the mantle as the world’s best racehorse from California Chrome, Arrogate will attempt on Saturday to wear another crown that last fitted his illustrious American compatriot, the Dubai World Cup.

All eyes are on the 4-year-old Arrogate, who lost on debut 11 months ago but hasn’t lost since.

He’s won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup this year to stretch his unbeaten streak to six. In both races, Arrogate defeated Chrome, who won the Dubai World Cup last year at Meydan Racecourse by five lengths despite jockey Victor Espinoza hanging on to a loose saddle for most of it.

Under jockey Mike Smith, Arrogate has forged a winning combination in his last three Group 1 races: Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup.

In Dubai, they have drawn stall nine among 14 contenders, a position which fails to douse the confidence of his trainer Bob Baffert.

“Nine is fine,” said Baffert, who also trained 2015 U.S. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“He’s settled in pretty well. As long as he shows up, that’s the key. If he runs his race, we know what he can do.”

Smith was all praise for his mount, ranked the No. 1 racehorse in the world.

“I have been blessed with some really, really good horses, but I am not sure I have ever sit on one like this,” Smith said.

“Everything about him, his disposition, his mechanics, the way he gets over the ground … at times you feel as if you are running downhill instead of a level ground. What amazes me most is when the race is over, it looks as if he did not put much effort into it. His recovery time is so quick.”

Arrogate’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup wins came over 2,000 meters on dirt, the same distance and conditions as the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Baffert hopes Arrogate can give him a third Dubai World Cup victory after Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001).

He suffered a heart attack during his last visit to Dubai in 2012, and watched the World Cup five nights later with stents in two of his blocked arteries. He also watched from even farther afield last year as his other horse, Hoppertunity, finished third behind Chrome and Mike de Kock’s Mubtaahij.

He’s giving Hoppertunity another chance.

“Both my horses are happy and healthy,” Baffert said. “He (Hoppertunity) should be collecting a check again. That is what he does, picks up the pieces in these big races. He reminds me of Pac-Man, he just keeps going. A Dubai World Cup 1-2, that would be something.”

Mubtaahij is also back, although he will start under Christophe Soumillon from the widest of stalls.

“Like everyone, we wanted low,” the Belgian jockey said. “I will have to … hope for some luck.”

The Dubai World Cup features a nine-race card offering $30 million across six Group 1 and three Group 2 races on turf and dirt.

Six three-year-olds nominated late to Triple Crown series

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thunder Snow, winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas, is among six 3-year-olds made eligible to compete in the Triple Crown series during the late nomination period.

The late nominees, which required a payment of $6,000 each, raise the total nominations to 425 for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The late nomination period closed Monday. The early nomination window closed in January and required a payment of $600.

Ireland-bred Thunder Snow, owned by Godolphin Racing, is set to run Saturday in the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai. The colt has three wins in seven career starts for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

The other late nominees are Hollywood Handsome, trained by Dallas Stewart; More Than Words, trained by Charlie LoPresti; Parlor, trained by Eddie Kenneally; Rapid Dial, trained by Ingrid Mason; and Stretch’s Stone, trained by Bruce Levine.

Thoroughbreds that weren’t nominated to the Triple Crown have one final chance by paying a supplemental fee. The fee for the Derby is $200,000; $150,000 for the Preakness; and $75,000 for the Belmont.