(Trainer Bob Baffert / Coady Photography)
From the Santa Anita Media Team:
BAFFERT: ECLIPSE AWARDS ARE ABOUT THE HORSES
If Bob Baffert keeps winning Eclipse Awards in bunches, he might have to open his own private Hall of Fame.
The two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer will add at least three more trophies to his expansive collection when winners are announced at the 50th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony presented by Spendthrift Farm on Thursday, Jan. 28.
Barring something unforeseen, Baffert’s Authentic will be Horse of the Year and Three-Year-Old Male and his brilliant Gamine will be named Female Sprinter.
A fourth Baffert Eclipse could be won should his stalwarts Improbable or Maximum Security be named outstanding Older Dirt Male.
Authentic would be the fourth Horse of the Year trained by Baffert, joining Triple Crown kings Justify (2018) and American Pharoah (2015), along with Preakness and Derby winner Point Given (2001).
Baffert himself is one of three finalists for an Eclipse among trainers along with Steve Asmussen and Brad Cox, and while Authentic and Gamine are odds-on to win, Baffert considers himself a longshot.
He did win, however, in 2015 and three years in a row from 1997 through 1999. Baffert also has 880 wins at Santa Anita (not including Oak Tree), second and closing on the late Bobby Frenkel’s 917.
On the business end, Baffert currently has Grade I Malibu Stakes winner Charlatan on course for the world’s richest race, the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 20, and Kentucky Derby favorite Life Is Good ticketed for the March 6 San Felipe Stakes or “an out of town” race.
Meanwhile, the hits just keep on coming. On Friday, Baffert unleashed a three-year-old colt named Concert Tour to win in hand late by 3 1/2 lengths for owners/breeders Gary and Mary West.
“It was a nice maiden win; he ran like we thought he would,” Baffert said of the son of Street Sense, who covered six furlongs in a sprightly 1:10.40 as the even-money favorite.
A six-time Kentucky Derby winner and the most recognizable trainer on the planet thanks to his shock of snow-white hair and voluminous accomplishments, Baffert turned 68 on Jan. 13.
A pat on the back is always more comforting than a kick in the pants, but personal plaudits are not high on his priority list.
“I think I’ve been nominated for an Eclipse like 20, 30 years in a row,” Baffert said. “We had a great year (with 16 Grade I victories, more than any other trainer).
“To win a personal award is a great honor, but to me it’s more important that the horses win.”
IT’S MILLER TIME AGAIN IN GRADE III PALOS VERDES
Peter Miller, the meet’s leading trainer through Sunday with nine wins, has two horses ticketed for Saturday’s Grade III Palos Verdes Stakes, one of them defending champ Captain Scotty, who led throughout in 2020 to win the six-furlong sprint by a neck.
Miller also will enter Shashashakemeup, a four-year-old Shackleford colt making his West Coast debut. Both have been working forwardly at Miller’s San Luis Rey Downs training headquarters.
“Captain Scotty is a nice, hard-knocking kind of horse who always gives his best,” Miller said of the seven-year-old Quality Road gelding, winner of his last two races. The consistent bay has a 6-5-2 record from 20 starts overall with earnings of $382,048.
“They have complimentary styles,” Miller said. “Captain Scotty wants to be on the lead, and I think Shashashakemeup wants a target to run at.”
Ricky Gonzalez, who won aboard Captain Scotty last out on Dec. 6, retains the mount, while Juan Hernandez will ride Shashashakemeup for the first time.
BUSY BALTAS HAS IDOL POINTED TO SAN PASQUAL
Richard Baltas, an active participant at the entry box, has San Antonio runner-up Idol pointed to the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 30, a major steppingstone to the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 6.
Owned by Calvin Nguyen, the son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin had won two overnight races at Churchill Downs by daylight margins as a three-year-old before tackling older in the San Antonio last Dec. 26.
Through 12 racing days, Baltas has run 42 horses to rank third behind perennial category leader Doug O’Neill (55) and Peter Miller (44).
Meanwhile, Venetian Harbor is “almost ready to come in” from Kentucky after a three-month freshening following her race in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Keeneland last Nov. 6 in which she finished far back after attending the pace early in the seven-furlong event.
“We gave her 90 days off at the farm and she’s coming back into training,” Baltas said of the daughter of Munnings, winner of two Grade II stakes last year, the Las Virgenes at Santa Anita and the Raven Run at Keeneland.
FINISH LINES: Four members of Santa Anita’s jockey colony will be absent from The Great Race Place on Jan. 23 to fulfill engagements at Gulfstream Park on Pegasus World Cup Day. They are Flavien Prat, Joel Rosario, Mike Smith and Drayden Van Dyke . . . Promising filly Astute and graded turf stakes winner United each worked for Richard Mandella Monday, the former going three furlongs in 37 flat and United four furlongs 49.60. In all there were 136 recorded workouts this morning, 19 on the training track . . . Call it karma: Santa Anita’s diminutive Paddock Captain JohnShear, who stands four feet, 11 inches, is nicknamed “Little John” by his many friends. He celebrated his 100th birthday yesterday, while at Golden Gate Fields, a four-year-old gelding named Little Johnawarded a major mutuel gift to his backers, winning the ninth race by a nose returning $38.60, $23.60 and $10.80 across the board . . . Umberto Rispoli has been suspended an additional racing day (Jan. 23) for participating in more than one designated race on Jan. 16 . . .Tune in early today to santaanita.com/live, as Track Announcer Frank Mirahmadi and Tom Quigley will handicap the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day card beginning at 11:20 a.m… Santa Anita is dark Tuesday through Thursday. Live racing resumes 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 22.