Bob Baffert’s Taiba favored in $1 million Haskell Stakes

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — Taiba is the slight 7-5 favorite over the undefeated Jack Christopher in the $1 million Haskell Stakes on Saturday, the first major race for 3-year-olds following the Triple Crown.

Taiba is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who is seeking to extend his stakes record with a 10th Haskell victory at Monmouth Park.

“I don’t think about records,” Baffert said. “I just think about sending a good horse up there. I’ve sent some really great ones. I hope this guy is the same type of horse. He’s lightly raced, and he’s very talented.”

Jack Christopher, the 3-2 second choice, will race around two turns for the first time in the 1 1/8-mile track. His four victories, including a 10-length win in the Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont Park, have all come at distances of a mile or less. Jose Ortiz will be aboard for trainer Chad Brown.

The Haskell marks a return to the spotlight for Baffert. Earlier this month, he completed a 90-day suspension handed down by the Kentucky Racing Commission for a failed post-race drug test involving Medina Spirit, who was first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby but was later disqualified.

While Baffert was sidelined, Taiba was transferred to Tim Yakteen, Baffert’s former assistant. While in Yakteen’s care, Taiba won the Santa Anita Derby before finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby. The horse’s only race for Baffert prior to the suspension was a dominant debut win at Santa Anita in March.

Taiba drew post 2 for Haskell, with Mike Smith set to ride.

“The Kentucky Derby, I don’t know what happened there. I wasn’t around,” Baffert said. “It was a tall order for him. There are some good horses in here. Jack Christopher is a really fast horse. The Haskell is a great race, and great horses have won the race. I have great memories there and I hope the horse shows up.”

White Abarrio, the Florida Derby winner, is the 5-1 third choice followed by Cyberknife, the Arkansas Derby winner, at 6-1.

The other four entrants are 10-1 or higher. Post time is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Saturday.

The full field, from the rail with jockeys and odds: Cyberknife, Florent Geroux, 6-1; Taiba, Mike Smith, 7-5; One Time Willard, Paco Lopez, 30-1; Howling Time, Joe Talamo, 10-1; King of Hollywood, Nik Juarez, 30-1; White Abarrio, Joel Rosario, 5-1; Jack Christopher, Jose Ortiz, 3-2; Benevengo, Angel Rodriguez, 20-1.

Arabian Knight off Kentucky Derby trail; will return later

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Arabian Knight is off the Kentucky Derby trail.

Wagering has been suspended on the 3-year-old colt for the Derby’s future wager after owner Amr Zedan announced the decision. Arabian Knight was the second choice on the morning line behind favorite Forte for the May 6 race.

“Trainer Tim Yakteen wasn’t happy with his last work & we feel it’s in Arabian Knight’s best interest not to rush & allow him more time to develop,” Zedan tweeted. “We know he’s a superior talent & our plan is to point him toward a summer and fall campaign.”

Purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, Arabian Knight won his debut by 7 1/4 lengths at Keeneland last November. He made his 3-year-old debut in the Southwest at Oaklawn in January and won by 5 1/2 lengths.

Arabian Knight had his third workout at Santa Anita.

Tapit Trice wins Tampa Bay Derby, earns Kentucky Derby points

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TAMPA, Fla. — Tapit Trice rallied from last to win the $360,000 Tampa Bay Derby by two lengths and earn qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

Ridden by Luis Saez, Tapit Trice ran 1 1/16 miles 1:43.37. The 1-2 favorite in the field of 12 paid $3 to win. The 3-year-old colt earned 50 qualifying points, which places him in the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher extended his record for most wins in the Grade 3 race to six. He already has the early Kentucky Derby favorite in Forte, who won the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream last weekend.

Classic Car Wash was second and Classic Legacy was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

Tapit Trice was making his stakes debut after winning two of three starts.

“Once he got clear down the lane, he really extended himself,” Pletcher said. ”I loved the way he finished up. He relished the two turns, and the longer he goes, the better he’ll get.”