16-1 shot Reincarnate wins Sham Stakes for Baffert

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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.

Flightline, Pletcher, Godolphin lead way at Eclipse Awards

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PALM BEACH, Fla. — Flightline ran away in all six of his races, and ran away with top honors at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night.

And trainer Todd Pletcher, for the first time in nearly a decade, received the sport’s top prize as well.

Flightline – the now-retired winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic to cap an unbeaten six-race career – won Horse of the Year as well as the Eclipse as top Older Dirt Male. It was no surprise that Flightline took home both awards, and he’s now standing stud.

“We’ll hope that his future is as bright as his past,” co-owner Kosta Hronis said.

Godolphin was also a double winner, sweeping the Eclipses as top owner and top breeder for the second consecutive year. It was also the third consecutive top-owner Eclipse for Godolphin.

“This is truly a golden era for Godolphin racing,” said Michael Banahan, the stable’s director of bloodstock. “And these awards and accolades recognize how special it is.”

It was Pletcher’s eighth Eclipse, extending his record for the most by any trainer, and his first since 2014. It was one of the few close races in the voting; Pletcher got 108 first-place votes, while four-time Eclipse winner Chad Brown got 95 and finished second.

“This really is not an individual award. This is a team award,” Pletcher said. “This is an award about the owners, and most importantly, the horses.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Eclipse as top jockey for the fourth time in the last five years; he tied Pat Day and Javier Castellano for third-most in history, behind only seven-time winner Jerry Bailey and five-time winner Laffit Pincay Jr.

Ortiz led all jockeys with more than $37 million in purses in 2022.

“Wow,” Ortiz said. “It’s been an amazing year for me.”

Forte won the Eclipse as 2-year-old male, and will enter this year’s Triple Crown season as one of the early favorites.

“We’re all in this game for a horse like Forte,” said Mike Repole, the horse’s co-owner along with Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola and Teresa Viola. “We’re all in this game to one day maybe own a 2-year-old that has a chance. It’s great to have the Kentucky Derby favorite. … Forte’s an incredible horse.”

Epicenter won the 3-year-old male Eclipse, after running second at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, then winning the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga over the summer.

Wonder Wheel was the winner as 2-year-old filly, while Nest won the Eclipse in the 3-year-old filly division. Malathaat was the Eclipse winner for older dirt female, Goodnight Olive for female sprinter and Regal Glory for female turf horse.

Elite Power was picked as the top male sprinter, Modern Games won the Eclipse for male turf horse, and Hewick was the Eclipse winner in the steeplechase division.

Jose Antonio Gomez won as top apprentice jockey.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.