Bob Baffert looks for Preakness upset with Collected

Getty Images
0 Comments

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.

Taiba wins $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert

Getty Images
1 Comment

BENSALEM, Pa. – Taiba won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by three lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Taiba ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.67 and paid $4.80, $3 and $2.60.

It was Baffert’s fourth win in the Grade 1 event at Parx Racing. He also won in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Smith won the race for the third time, all aboard Baffert horses.

Zandon returned $3.80 and $2.60. Cyberknife was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $3 to show.

Taiba was coming off a second-place finish in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in July. The colt was 12th in the Kentucky Derby under Tim Yakteen, who took over training him while Baffert was serving a 90-day suspension.

“He had a little bit of a rough trip in the Haskell, but we had some time to get him ready for this one,” Baffert said from his base in California. “He proved today he is a good horse. He is getting better and better.”

Baffert Taiba will be pointed toward the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. The colt has three wins in five starts this year.

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

kentucky derby
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1 Comment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.