Baffert mulls West Coast’s fall
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – West Coast’s dominant 3 1/4length victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes only further muddied an already jumbled 3-yearold picture, with fall plans unclear for him and many of his vanquished.
West Coast was due to return to California on Monday. Later this week trainer Bob Baffert and owner Gary West will meet to discuss what might be next for West Coast, who went gate to wire under Mike Smith in the Travers for his fourth consecutive victory.
On Sunday, Baffert mentioned the Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing on Sept. 23 and the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Oct. 7 as potential options. The Pennsylvania Derby is restricted to 3-yearolds at 1 1/8 miles. The Jockey Club Gold Cup is for 3-year-olds and up and run at 1 1/4 miles. A victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup would look sexy on a résumé for a horse battling for a 3-year-old championship.
“We know he likes Belmont,” said Baffert, referring to West Coast’s victory in the Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
Baffert wanted to see how West Coast trained before he settled on what might be next.
West Coast, a son of Flatter, won his fourth consecutive race in the Travers, in which he ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.19. He earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest number for a 3-year-old in a two-turn race this year.
Ridden by Edgard Zayas, Gunnevera finished second in the Travers by 2 1/4 lengths over Irap after getting bumped at the start and sustaining a long, wide rally from the middle of the backstretch to midstretch. His connections were pleased with the performance and said they would attempt to train him up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4 at Del Mar.
“He ran great, we’re very happy,” said Alessandro Sano, son of trainer Antonio Sano. “Zayas put a lot of effort in and never gave up. A next possible race is the Breeders’ Cup Classic and we’ll train him toward that race.”
Irap, third in the Travers by 2 1/2 lengths over Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit, will be pointed to the Pennsylvania Derby, trainer Doug O’Neill said via text. Irap will stay on the East Coast to prepare for that race, according to O’Neill.
After running poorly for the third straight race, Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming will be sent to WinStar Farm in Lexington Ky., on Monday for a break and will get a complete physical, after which his connections will make a decision on his future, trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Always Dreaming, under John Velazquez, stalked West Coast for the first seven furlongs before giving way. He finished ninth, beaten 18 lengths.
“I can’t offer much excuse based on the trip he got,” Pletcher said. “He was in the position that we thought he would be in and he seemed to be going comfortably. He came off the bridle on the far turn and that was it.”
Since winning the Derby, Always Dreaming has finished eighth in the Preakness and third in the Jim Dandy. Still, Pletcher sees Always Dreaming as the most-accomplished 3-year-old so far with wins in the Kentucky Derby and Florida Derby.
“He’s still the only one with two Grade 1 wins [on dirt] to this point,” Pletcher said. “Like I’ve said a lot of times before, people don’t weigh the first half of the year as heavily as they weigh the second half of the year, but the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby is the strongest combination, you could argue.”
Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit finished fourth in the Travers under Jose Ortiz, and Pletcher said he came out of the race well and could possibly make his next start in either the Pennsylvania Derby or the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Oct. 7.
“I was hoping he’d have a little more punch when Jose moved him out,” Pletcher said. “He kind of finished a little bit evenly. You could make a case that it was a little bit of a hard track to make up ground on. He ran well, looks good, so we’ll go on to either the Pennsylvania Derby or the Jockey Club depending how things unfold here the next couple of weeks.”
Preakness winner Cloud Computing finished eighth, 12 1/4 lengths behind West Coast. Trainer Chad Brown did not offer an excuse for him except to say it was the second straight race over Saratoga’s main track in which the horse failed to run well. He had finished fifth in the Jim Dandy on July 29.
Brown said he needs to regroup with Cloud Computing, and depending how he bounces back he could consider the Pennsylvania Derby. Last year, Connect finished sixth in the Travers and bounced back to win the Pennsylvania Derby.
Good Samaritan, the Jim Dandy winner, finished fifth, beaten nine lengths. He was last for the first three-quarters of a mile.
“He dropped back a good ways, maybe a little farther than anyone would have wanted,” trainer Bill Mott said. “He beat everybody that he beat in the Jim Dandy, though I don’t know what that means, and he was beaten a length by the Belmont winner.”
Mott wasn’t sure what might be next for Good Samaritan.
West Coast won the Travers by 3 1/4 lengths and could race next in the Pennsylvania Derby or the Jockey Club Gold Cup.