by Jeremy Plonk
August 27, 2018
Bob Baffert boasts an 11: 8-1-1 record with 2-year-olds at Del Mar this summer. Forget what you saw at Saratoga on Saturday when he swept the G1 Ballerina with Marley’s Freedom and the G1 Personal Ensign with Abel Tasman. The real story – at least since the retirement of Justify – continues to be what he’s done at Del Mar with his freshman class of 2018.
One of those 3 losses came when running 1-2 in Saturday’s opening race. The other 2 losses came via Dark Prince, obviously the runt of the litter, the black sheep, the red-headed stepchild, when you look at nothing but Ws everywhere else. It’s getting beyond impressive, to almost impossible.
Baffert’s first-time juvenile starters are an unfathomable 8-for-8. His 3 losses came with the only experienced horses he’s run at the meet. Six of the winners have been odds-on propositions. The others were 9-5 and a whopping 5-2. Six of the winners scored by 3 lengths or more. It hasn’t even been close most times. Four have been ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, 2 by Mike Smith and 1 each by Joe Talamo and Joel Rosario.
Sure, it’s Baffert at Del Mar with 2-year-olds. We expect him to be good. He was 6-for-22 last year and had the Del Mar Futurity runner-up on a down year. Baffert posted 9-for-31 numbers with his juveniles here in 2016, led by Klimt winning the Best Pal and Futurity. The 2015 totals were 8-for-30 without a single starter in the season’s graded stakes for the boys.
None of that even comes close to what’s happening right now. Maybe even with all this he won’t be able to upend Jerry Hollendorfer’s juggernaut Instagrand in the Del Mar Futurity. But, oh what a hand he is developing toward the Futurity and Debutante at the end of closing week…and beyond to Santa Anita and potentially the Breeders’ Cup.
The eight winners capsulized, with most recent on top, are as follows:
Tale of the Union (Aug. 26): Union Rags colt is New York-bred out of a decent sprint mare, but when they bring $925,000 at the 2-year-old sale with this kind of pedigree, you know they can run early. That was on display with an 8-length romp after 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03.81, the widest margin of victory by the Baffert Babies of Del Mar ’18.
Fighting Mad (Aug. 25): Filly by Baffert-trained Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day, she won a stable showdown by a nose over freshly acquired Honeyfromthesouth (see Chasing Yesterday, below). Modestly bred Fighting Mad clocked 5 ½ furlongs in 1:04.39 as the barnmates put more than 6 lengths on the rest.
Game Winner (Aug. 18): Son of Candy Ride daylighted by 5 ¾ lengths despite dueling wide and losing ground over 6 furlongs in 1:11.21, beating what looked to be a deep cast that included runner-up Dueling for Jerry Hollendorfer. His second dam is $1.7 million earner Fleet Indian, winner of the G1 Delaware Handicap at 1-1/4 miles. He’s got classic-distance genes on all sides.
The Aurelia Factor (Aug. 11): Filly by Baffert-trained sprint star The Factor, she’s bred top and bottom for 1-turn success. She wired by a neck in a hard-fought debut in :59.30 for 5 furlongs.
Der Lu (Aug. 5): Filly by Orb cost $900,000 in February and opened her career with a 3 ¼ length victory over 6 ½ furlongs in 1:17.92. Her second dam is Dream of Summer, Grade 1 Apple Blossom winner of more than $1.1 million. She’s got a Kentucky Oaks look about her.
Roadster (July 29): Quality Road colt coasted by 4 ¼ lengths in 1:11.07 for 6 furlongs. A horse he whooped by 10 lengths, Gunmetal Gray, returned to win by daylight next out in a 1-2 finish for alumni dispatched by Roadster.
Chasing Yesterday (July 28): American Pharoah’s baby half-sister by Tapit was a 4-1/4 length winner when running 5 ½ furlongs in 1:04.44. The filly who chased her home, Honeyfromthesouth, subsequently was purchased and sent to Baffert – adding to the brigade.
Mother Mother (July 22): Pioneerof The Nile filly scored by 6 ½ lengths going 6 furlongs in 1:10.78. She is half-sister to 2014 Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve and only figures to improve with distance.