16-1 shot Reincarnate wins Sham Stakes for Baffert

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Courier Journal/USA TODAY Sports

ARCADIA, Calif. — It’s proving time for 3-year-olds in the barn of trainer Bob Baffert.

The next four months will weed out the best of the bunch as the calendar moves closer to May and the start of the Triple Crown series.

“See what you have, see what they like to do,” Baffert said. “You learn from the races and hope they stay healthy. That’s the main thing.”

Reincarnate put his name on the top of the heap for now, winning the $100,000 Sham Stakes by a neck for Baffert, who completed a 1-2-3 sweep at Santa Anita.

Baffert has won the Sham in seven of the last 10 years.

Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Reincarnate ran 1 mile in 1:35.87 under overcast skies.

Sent off at 16-1 odds in the field of five, Reincarnate paid $35 to win, an unusually high price for a Baffert-trained horse.

Newgate was second, while 3-5 favorite National Treasure was another three-quarters of a length back in third. National Treasure was making his first start since finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland in November.

“He never could get him in a comfortable spot,” Baffert said of jockey John Velazquez aboard National Treasure. “We just got to work on him, get him a little bit relaxed, chill him out a little bit.”

Reincarnate broke sharply and went to the lead, where he ran for much of the race.

“Once I saw that horse turning for home, he’s a stayer, he doesn’t get tired,” Baffert said.

“He’s my Belmont horse,” the trainer joked, referring to the Triple Crown race’s 1 1/2-mile distance.

Reincarnate dueled with Newgate while holding a scant lead through the final furlongs before hanging on at the finish.

“I saw myself in front, so I just let him run,” Hernandez said. “When he got the lead, he tried to wait for company, but when he saw the other horse come to me, he saw him and fought back.”

Baffert’s other entry, Speed Boat Beach, was scratched because the trainer said he wasn’t quite ready for the race. The colt was the 5-2 co-second choice on the morning line. Baffert said Speed Boat Beach would likely be pointed toward the $200,000 San Vicente on Jan. 29.

Packs a Wahlop was fourth and earned two Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Spun Intended was pulled up in front of the grandstand by jockey Mike Smith and vanned off. Trainer Mark Glatt said the horse was OK.

Baffert’s three entries didn’t earn any Derby qualifying points because he’s been banned until after this year’s Derby by Churchill Downs Inc. because of repeated medication violations.

Earlier Sunday, Ice Dancing won the $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 3 1/4 lengths and earned 20 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks on May 5.

Baffert’s fillies, Fast and Shiny, Parody and Huntingcoco, finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively. But they were denied the six, four and two Oaks qualifying points for their results because of Baffert’s ban.

His ban at CDI-owned tracks runs from June 2021 until after this year’s Kentucky Derby.

In December, Baffert’s lawyers re-filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against CDI in an effort to allow him to enter horses in the Kentucky Derby on May 6. They initially sought an injunction in February 2022, but it was withdrawn when Baffert began serving a 90-day suspension from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Churchill Downs moves meet to Ellis Park to examine protocols following 12 horse deaths

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Michael Clevenger and Erik Mohn/USA TODAY NETWORK

Churchill Downs will suspend racing and move the remainder of its spring meet to Ellis Park in order to conduct a “top-to-bottom” review of safety and surface protocols in the wake of 12 horse fatalities the past month at the home of the Kentucky Derby.

No single factor has been identified as a potential cause for the fatalities or pattern detected, according to a release, but the decision was made to relocate the meet “in an abundance of caution.”

“What has happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in Friday’s release. “We need to take more time to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all of the details and circumstances so that we can further strengthen our surface, safety and integrity protocols.”

Racing will continue at Churchill Downs through Sunday before shifting to the CDI-owned racing and gaming facility in Henderson, Kentucky. Ellis Park’s meet was scheduled to start July 7 and run through Aug. 27 but will now expand with Friday’s announcement.

Ellis Park will resume racing on June 10.

The move comes a day after track superintendent Dennis Moore conducted a second independent analysis of Churchill Downs’ racing and training surfaces as part of an emergency summit called this week by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) with the track and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Meetings took place in Lexington, Kentucky, and at the Louisville track.

The head of the federally created oversight agency suggested ahead of the summit that it could recommend pausing the meet and that Churchill Downs would accept that recommendation.

Churchill Downs’ release stated that expert testing raised no concerns and concluded that the surface was consistent with the track’s prior measurements. Even so, it chose to relocate “in alignment” with HISA’s recommendation to suspend the meet to allow more time for additional investigation.

“We appreciate their thoughtfulness and cooperation through these challenging moments,” HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said in a statement. “We will continue to seek answers and work with everyone involved to ensure that horses are running safely at Churchill Downs again in the near future.”

Carstanjen insisted that relocating the remainder of the spring meet to Ellis Park would maintain the industry ecosystem with minor disruption. He also said he was grateful to Kentucky horsemen for their support as they work to find answers.

Rick Hiles, the president of Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, questioned the move, especially since there’s no conclusive evidence that Churchill Downs’ surface is the problem.

“We all want to find solutions that will improve safety for horses,” Hiles said in a statement. “However, we need to discuss allowing trainers and veterinarians to use therapeutic medications that greatly lessen the risk of breakdowns.

“Drastic steps, such as relocating an active race meet, should only be considered when it is certain to make a difference.”

The latest development comes a day after Churchill Downs and HISA each implemented safety and performance standards to address the spate of deaths.

HISA will conduct additional post-entry screening of horses to identify those at increased risk for injury. Its Integrity and Welfare Unit also will collect blood and hair samples for all fatalities for use while investigating a cause.

Churchill Downs announced it would immediately limit horses to four starts during a rolling eight-week period and impose ineligibility standards for poor performers. The track is also pausing incentives, such as trainer start bonuses and limiting purse payouts to the top five finishers instead of every finisher.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance


NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.