- BAFFERT BIDS PHOND PHAREWELL TO PHAROAH
- MASOCHISTIC IN BULLET WORKOUT FOR SPRINT
- PEDROZA EYES FIRST BC WIN ON PRIVATE ZONE
- STEWARD TOM WARD WORKS FINAL DAY AT SANTA ANITA
AMERICAN PHAROAH ANSWERED BAFFERT’S PRAYERS
Bob Baffert sometimes displays an impregnable, armadillo-like exterior, bullet proof to probing questions about his horses that might infringe on his indecisive public itinerary.
But underneath an at times brash, bawdy, pseudo-hip and occasionally politically incorrect countenance given to one-liners lays a simpatico soul and heart that beats with a sense of reverence and faith.
Say what you will about him, the man can flat-out train, bullet workouts be damned.
Baffert’s emotions uncharacteristically came to the fore as the reality of American Pharoah’s definitive departure from his barn at Santa Anita drew ever closer. Tomorrow, the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years has his last ever workout at Santa Anita before leaving Tuesday for Keeneland where the three-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile owned by Ahmed Zayat runs Saturday in his final race, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
American Pharoah will work a half-mile Monday under jockey Martin Garcia after the second renovation break at 7:45 a.m.
After the Classic, it’s life as a stallion at Coolmore Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky.
“He fulfilled a goal for me that I wanted but thought was probably unreachable, and that was to win the Triple Crown,” Baffert said of the brilliant bay colt who has won eight of 10 career starts, going off as the favorite in each but the second, accumulating earnings of $5,900,300.
Baffert was born in Nogales (it means black walnut in Spanish), population 20,000, about 70 miles south of Tucson. In addition to being Baffert’s home town, the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musical “Oklahoma” was shot there. It is still being performed on stage six decades later.
“When I first got into the business, I felt if I could just win a Breeders’ Cup race it would be great, because winning a Breeders’ Cup is probably a little easier than a (three-year-old) Classic,” said Baffert, who turns 63 next January 13.
“But to win a Derby and then three more, and going through the Triple Crown three times before winning, I thought was pretty incredible.
“I just asked the Lord, ‘Give me one more shot, because I think I’ve got it down,’ and this horse came along and answered my prayers.
“It was emotional for me because unfortunately my parents weren’t around to see it and they were always my biggest fans. My mother always said I was going to win one. She’d say in her little Spanish accent, ‘You’re going to do it.’ That’s what made it so emotional for me.”
Bob’s father, Bill, died in 2012. His mother, Ellie, died a year earlier.
“The Belmont is the first time I’ve run a horse and never rooted for it. I just watched in amazement, and that’s really rare. I always root and scream my lungs out, but watching him, I just knew he was going to do it. There was something about him that’s so special.
“His retirement is emotional for us because we’re used to seeing him every day, and he’s such a kind horse. It’s always tough when you see your good horses leave, but he’s so special because he put our whole team on a different level. I never thought I’d get there, and only 12 of us have been there.
“The Breeders’ Cup is a different vibe for me. It will be exciting, but it’s more of an end-of-the-year, big payday with big purses, not like the Triple Crown races.
“All my kids got to enjoy them with me, and what more can you accomplish in this sport after you win the Triple Crown?”
In an all-too-brief career of only 11 races, the conquests and charisma of American Pharoah will be missed by racing aficionados everywhere, but none more than Bob Baffert.
For him, American Pharoah was a horse for the ages.
In other Breeders’ Cup news:
Sprint contender Masochistic worked five furlongs Sunday under Baltazar Contreras in a bullet 58.40, fastest of 50 drills at the distance, the average time of which was 1:01.67.
“It was awesome,” trainer Ron Ellis said. “It was as easy as we could get him to go.” Masochistic leaves Tuesday for Keeneland.
Masochistic’s fractional times were 34.80 and 46.40, according to Santa Anita clocker Dane Nelson.
Obviously (Mile) and Big John B (Turf) worked on a firm turf course for Phil D’Amato, the former going five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.80, breezing, and Big John B the same distance in 1:03. The splits were 23.60 and 37.20 for Obviously and 38 and 1:03 for Big John B.
Rodeo Drive runner-up Elektrum (Filly & Mare Turf) went five furlongs on grass in 1:02.80 for John Sadler.
At 7:45 a.m. Monday, 10 minutes after the second renovation break, the main track will be restricted to Breeders’ Cup workers only, including American Pharoah.
PEDROZA EYES BC GOLD WITH PRIVATE ZONE
Martin Pedroza has been injured and had more comebacks than Bret Favre.
The unsinkable Panamanian has been riding nearly three-and-half decades but has never won a Breeders’ Cup race. That oversight could end Saturday when he pilots Private Zone in the $1.5 million Sprint at Keeneland.
Pedroza has ridden in eight Breeders’ Cup races, his best being a second on Blueskiesnrainbows in the 2013 Marathon. He was eighth on Silk’s Lady in the 1986 Juvenile Fillies; 12th on Miss Iron Smoke in the 1991 Juvenile Fillies; third aboard Two Step Salsa in the 2008 Dirt Mile; 11th on Stormy Lucy in the 2012 Filly & Mare Turf; and sixth that year on Nonios in the Classic.
He finished 10th and third, respectively, on Private Zone in the Sprint in 2013 and 2014.
“I feel very good going into the race,” said Pedroza, scheduled to ride opening day at Del Mar Thursday before leaving that night for Kentucky. “Private Zone won his last race, the Forego, very easily, very impressively, and he runs very well fresh, and after the Forego they freshened him up especially for the Breeders’ Cup.
“He enjoys being hooked and, oh, he’s going to be hooked in the Sprint. It’s going to be a good race. He doesn’t have to be in front. As long as he’s in tactical contention, three-quarters of a length, a length off the pace, it’s perfect.”
Pedroza has ridden Private Zone in 19 of his 30 starts, winning seven. The son of Macho Uno bred in Ontario by Adena Springs has won 10 overall, with eight seconds and three thirds, for earnings of $2,608,120.
Pedroza, who has been represented by agent Richie Silverstein for the better part of 28 years, has justification for wanting to win aboard Private Zone, not the least of which is that the durable six-year-old gelding is owned by the Good Friends Stable, which is managed by Pedroza’s life-long friend and fellow Panamanian, former jockey Rene Douglas.
“The main reasons I want to win,” Pedroza said, “are for Rene, my family back home in Panama, and myself.”
STEWARD TOM WARD BIDS AU REVOIR TO GREAT RACE PLACE
Longtime highly respected steward Tom Ward has announced that today will be his final shift at The Great Race Place. A fixture in the Southern California stewards’ stand since 1987, Ward, who began as a steward in the Bay Area in 1971, will work the upcoming Bing Crosby Meet at Del Mar beginning Thursday and will then be assigned full time at Los Alamitos which conducts both quarter horse and Thoroughbred racing on a nearly year-round basis.
FINISH LINES: Congratulations to Rafael Bejarano and his agent, Tora Yamaguchi, on winning the Autumn Meet riding title in runaway fashion.The Autumn Meet crown represents his 23rd Southern California riding crown. The training title could go down to the last race, however. Jerry Hollendorfer had an 11-9lead over runner-up Doug O’Neill. Hollendorfer had one horse entered today, 7-2 morning line favorite Chief of Staff in the seventh race, while O’Neill had four entered, in races one, four, eight and nine.
|SANTA ANITA STATISTICS|
|(Current Through Saturday, Oct. 24)|
|Drayden Van Dyke||25||4||4||3||16%||$357,810|
|J. Keith Desormeaux||19||3||2||2||16%||$166,500|