by Jon White
July 13, 2017
West Coast, a convincing winner of Belmont Park’s Easy Goer Stakes for Hall of Fame horseman Bob Baffert, and Klimt, a Grade I winner for Baffert last year who now is being trained by Art Sherman, head this Saturday’s Grade III Los Alamitos Derby. Eight are entered in the 1 1/8-miles affair.
West Coast is two for two since a narrow defeat in the Grade III Lexington Stakes at Keeneland by a head to Senior Investment on April 15. In Senior Investment’s next start, he finished third behind Cloud Computing and Classic Empire in the Preakness.
When West Coast made his next appearance under owner Gary and Mary West’s pink and black silks after the Lexington, he won a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race at Santa Anita Park on May 20. The Kentucky-bred Flat Out colt then registered a 3 3/4-length victory in the Easy Goer at the same distance on June 10 while earning a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure.
Klimt will be making his first start since he ended up eighth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita last Nov. 5. The Kentucky-bred Quality Road colt won Del Mar’s Grade I Del Mar Futurity and Grade II Best Pal Stakes last year.
THREE-YEAR-OLD MALE TITLE UP FOR GRABS
I think West Coast has the kind of talent to possibly have a big summer and fall campaign. Perhaps he even can run his way into the conversation for an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male of 2017. In terms of the Eclipse Award in this category, there currently is no clear-cut favorite. Prominent contenders, of course, are the three colts to have each won a Triple Crown race this year -- Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing and Tapwrit.
Always Dreaming, the Todd Pletcher-trained Kentucky Derby winner, and Cloud Computing, the Chad Brown-conditioned Preakness Stakes victor, are scheduled to clash in Saratoga’s Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on July 29. They both are utilizing the Jim Dandy as a steppingstone to Saratoga’s Grade I, $1.25 million Travers Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 26.
As for the Pletcher-trained Tapwrit, the plan is for the Belmont Stakes winner to be trained up to the Travers. This means he would not have a race between the June 10 Test of the Champion and the Aug. 26 Midsummer Derby.
Another colt who could have a lot to say about the 2017 Eclipse Award in the 3-year-old male category is the Brown-trained Timeline. Undefeated in four career starts, Timeline has won this year’s Grade III Peter Pan Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track at Belmont Park and Grade III Pegasus Stakes by the same margin at Monmouth Park. Next up for him is Monmouth’s Grade I, $1 million Haskell Invitational at 1 1/8 miles on July 30.
The Haskell also is expected to attract the likes of Irish War Cry, McCraken, Battle of Midway and perhaps Classic Empire.
Irish War Cry, trained by Graham Motion, has won this year’s Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park and Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. He finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont.
McCraken, conditioned by Ian Wilkes, has won this year’s Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and Grade III Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill. He ran eighth in the Kentucky Derby.
Battle of Midway, trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, won this year’s Grade III Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita by 4 1/4 lengths in his most recent start. He finished third in the Kentucky Derby.
Classic Empire, voted a 2016 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male, won this year’s Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. He finished fourth despite almost getting knocked down in the initial strides in the Kentucky Derby, lost a close decision when the runner-up in the Preakness, then missed the Belmont due to a foot abscess.
FORMERLY THE SWAPS STAKES
The Los Alamitos Derby was known as the Swaps Stakes when it was run at Hollywood Park from 1974 through 2013. After Hollywood ceased racing following its 2013 autumn meeting, the Swaps was switched to Los Alamitos and renamed.
When contested at Los Alamitos in the last three years, this race has been won by Shared Belief (2014), Gimme Da Lute (2015) and Accelerate (2016).
Shared Belief was voted a 2013 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. He used the 2014 Los Alamitos Derby as a springboard to an impressive 2 3/4-length win that summer vs. older rivals in Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic.
I really can’t blame the track for changing the name of the Swaps to have Los Alamitos included in the name of race. But I also can’t help but feel it’s a shame that Swaps, a truly great racehorse, no longer is honored with an important stakes raced named in his honor.
Swaps broke numerous world and track records during his illustrious career. He ranks No. 13 on my up-to-date list of the Top 25 Thoroughbreds of the 20th and 21st centuries to have raced in North America:
1. Man o’ War
5. Spectacular Bid
6. Native Dancer
7. Dr. Fager
8. Seattle Slew
9. Count Fleet
12. Phar Lap
16. American Pharoah
17. Tom Fool
19. Round Table
21. War Admiral
24. John Henry
25. Sunday Silence
Swaps ranked No. 20 on the BloodHorse’s list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century:
1. Man o’ War
5. Count Fleet
6. Dr. Fager
7. Native Dancer
9. Seattle Slew
10. Spectacular Bid
11. Tom Fool
13. War Admiral
17. Round Table
19. Bold Ruler
“Records were made to be broken. At least that is what Swaps set about doing while he was racing,” Kimberly Herbert wrote for the BloodHorse. “The son of Khaled out of the Beau Pere mare Iron Reward broke track records all over the country at various distances, under heavy weight assignments, and sometimes broke records on the way to breaking records. All in all, he set or equaled six world marks during his career, at one point lowering his own 1 1/16-mile world record by 1 2/5 seconds.”
Owned and bred by Rex Ellsworth and trained by Mesh Tenney, Swaps was victorious in 19 of 25 career starts. The California-bred chestnut colt won the 1955 Kentucky Derby by 1 1/2 lengths with Bill Shoemaker in the saddle. Nashua, piloted by Eddie Arcaro, finished second. Swaps, Shoemaker, Nashua and Arcaro are all in the Hall of Fame.
In the book “Champions,” Daily Racing Form’s esteemed Joe Hirsch recalled these highlights from Swaps’ 4-year-old campaign in 1956:
“He set a world record of 1:39 3/5 for a mile and 70 yards in winning the Broward Handicap at Gulfstream Park under 130 pounds.
“He set a world record of 1:33 1/5 for a mile in winning the Argonaut Handicap at Hollywood Park under 128 pounds.
“He set a world record of 1:39 for 1 1/16 miles in winning the Inglewood Handicap at Hollywood, carrying 130 pounds.
“He set a track record of 1:58 3/5 for 1 1/4 miles in winning the Hollywood Gold Cup under 130 pounds.
“He set a world record of 2:38 1/5 for 1 5/8 miles in winning the Sunset Handicap at Hollywood, carrying 130 pounds.
“He set a track record of 1:33 2/5 for a mile in winning the Washington Park Handicap under 130 pounds.
“He equaled the world record of 1:46 4/5 for 1 1/8 miles in winning the American Handicap at Hollywood under 130 pounds.”
At 4, Swaps was voted Horse of the Year and champion handicap horse.
A 1977 SWAPS STAKES SHOCKER
A throng of 68,115 showed up at Hollywood Park on July 3, 1977, to see Seattle Slew run in the Swaps Stakes. The outstanding equine athlete took a nine-for-nine career record and a historic Triple Crown sweep into the 1 1/4-mile Swaps for owners Karen and Mickey Taylor and Sally and Jim Hill.
The Taylors and Hills and just about everybody else expected the Swaps would be yet another win for Seattle Slew. Hence, the son of Bold Reasoning was backed down to 1-5 favoritism. But instead of a Seattle Slew victory, the 1977 Swaps ended up being an epic upset.
J.O. Tobin, with Shoemaker aboard, romped to an eight-length triumph at 3-1. During the stretch run, as the overwhelming favorite retreated under Jean Cruguet, track announcer Harry Henson noted in a call that still resonates with many to this day, “Seattle Slew is well beaten.”
Seattle Slew finished fourth in the Swaps, 16 lengths behind J.O. Tobin. Earlier in the year, when Seattle Slew had won the Preakness, J.O. Tobin finished fifth, beaten by 5 1/2 lengths.
Trainer Billy Turner Jr. did a wonderful job to win the Triple Crown with the high-energy Seattle Slew, a four-footed keg of dynamite. The Swaps turned out to be the colt’s final start at 3. It also was the last start Seattle Slew made for Turner. When Seattle Slew resumed racing early at 4, he had a new trainer, Doug Peterson.
Seattle Slew won 14 of 19 career starts. He was voted a total of four Eclipse Awards (champion 2-year-old male in 1976; Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male in 1977; champion older male in 1978).
KEEN ICE ENDS LOSING STREAK
Keen Ice is known best for winning the 2015 Travers at 16-1 when he upset Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
In American Pharoah’s next start after the Travers, he won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland by a resounding 6 1/2 lengths to complete his racing career in which he won nine of 11 starts.
Keen Ice finished fourth, 12 1/2 lengths behind American Pharoah, in the BC Classic. That began Keen Ice’s 10-race losing streak that finally came to an end last Saturday when he won Belmont’s Grade II Suburban Stakes at 1 1/4 miles by three lengths at 5-1. Shaman Ghost, the 1-2 favorite, finished second. Follow Me Crev came in third.
Dale Romans trained Keen Ice when he ambushed American Pharoah at the Spa. Pletcher now conditions the son of Curlin.
Keen Ice was assigned a 106 Beyer Speed Figure for his Suburban victory. The figure matched his career best. He also recorded a 106 when he won the Travers.
While Keen Ice deserves credit for succeeding in the Suburban, keep in mind he has been no match for superstar Arrogate the three times they have met.
When Arrogate won the Grade I BC Classic at Santa Anita last Nov. 5, Keen Ice finished third and lost by 11 1/4 lengths.
When Arrogate won the Grade I Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park earlier this year on Jan. 28, Keen Ice ended up fourth and lost by 11 lengths.
When Arrogate won the Group I Dubai World Cup on March 25, Keen Ice finished seventh and lost by 11 3/4 lengths.
Arrogate, who has not started since the Dubai World Cup, has been training in marvelous fashion while gearing up for his summer campaign. He drilled seven furlongs in 1:25.60 for Baffert at Santa Anita last Saturday, with a strong one-mile gallop out. Arrogate’s July 8 workout can be seen on the XBTV.com website. Here is the link: http://www.xbtv.com/video/workout/arrogate-worked-7-furlongs-in-125-60-at-santa-anita-park-on-july-8th-2017/
Since finishing third when making his career debut in a six-furlong maiden sprint at Los Alamitos on April 17, 2016, Arrogate has reeled off seven straight victories. He has never lost when racing farther than six furlongs.
Baffert has called Arrogate an “unbelievable super horse.” The Kentucky-bred son of Unbridled’s Song is expected to run in Del Mar’s upcoming Grade II San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on July 22, followed by a start in Del Mar’s Grade I Pacific Classic at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 19.