Bob Baffert has won the most purse money ($24,820,000) in Breeders’ Cup history, built largely on the fact he has won the last three runnings of the Classic. This year, Baffert has pre-entered 11 horses for the 34th Breeders’ Cup which will be held at Del Mar.
CUPID (Dirt Mile): Though also pre-entered in the Classic, this son of Tapit is expected to run in the Dirt Mile. In three starts this year, he has won the Grade 1 Gold Cup at 1 1-4 miles Santa Anita, the Harry Brubaker going a mile at Del Mar and finished fourth in the Grade 1 Awesome Again at 1 1-8 miles at Santa Anita.
Baffert said a mile “might be a little short for him but they go so fast some times. He won down there [at Del Mar]. He ran decent.”
MOR SPIRIT (Dirt Mile): Brings a three-race winning streak into the Dirt Mile, though he hasn’t run since a smashing 6 1-4-length victory in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on the undercard of the Belmont Stakes on June 10th.
In explaining the layoff, Baffert said “the Met Mile really cooked him.”
After a summer freshening, Baffert has gotten aggressive with Mor Spirit, working him from the gate six consecutive weeks. Baffert was particularly pleased with his last two workouts, which were in company with Cat Burglar. On October 7th, Mor Spirit worked with the defending sprint champion Drefong and Baffert said that move “woke him up.”
ABEL TASMAN (Distaff): A three-time Grade 1 stakes winner, this three-year-old filly enters this race off a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx. In that race, one of void of pace, Abel Tasman made a premature move that she could not sustain and was beaten two lengths by It Tiz Well.
With Paradise Woods and Champagne Room in the field, Baffert sees enough pace in the race.
“She needs pace,” Baffert said. “She breaks, then she falls back. If you ask her to get going a little bit then she goes. In a race like this there are so many quality fillies in there, and there’s speed.”
ALLURING STAR (Juvenile Fillies): She won her debut going 6 1-2 furlongs at Del Mar then finished second to Moonshine Memories in the Grade 1 Chandelier at Santa Anita going 1 1-16 miles.
In an October 23rd workout, Baffert experimented in a workout by taking blinkers off and putting her behind horses. He didn’t like the way she worked. In an October 29th workout, Baffert put blinkers back on and though she found herself behind two horses early, she waited to go by them and finished up well.
“Her work last week wasn’t very good,” Baffert said. “I tried something different with her, took blinkers off and put her behind [horses] and she responded horribly. So, blinkers back on, let her run.”
Baffert did express concern whether Alluring Star will be effective going 1 1-16 miles around two turns.
CONSTELLATION (Filly and Mare Sprint): A four-year-old filly who won stakes when trained by Steve Asmussen and a Grade 1 when with Jerry Hollendorfer, this is a new arrival in Baffert’s barn. She has finished second in all four of her starts this year including a neck loss to Paulassilverlining in the Grade 1 Madison Stakes at Keeneland in April.
“I’ve been working with her in the dark because she’s really aggressive to train,” Baffert said. “She’s going to have to step it up. It’s a very tough race.”
DREFONG (Sprint): Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and North America’s champion sprinter, Drefong enters the Breeders’ Cup having just made two starts in 2017. In his first start, he was bumped at the start and unseated his jockey, Mike Smith and ran around the track rider-less.
A month later, on August 29th, Drefong won the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga by four lengths over Awesome Slew, who looks to be a contender in the Dirt Mile.
Though Drefong has made only two starts, Baffert is very high on his chances.
“I feel pretty good about him,” Baffert said. “He’s doing better than he ever has.”
SOLOMINI (Juvenile): This son of Curlin his debut going 6 1-2 furlongs at Del Mar then finished a well-beaten second, 7 3-4 lengths behind Bolt d’Oro in the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita.
“He’s a horse that earlier wasn’t showing a lot, but with each race he’s shown improvement,” Baffert said. “He’s a grinder, he just grinds it out.”
Baffert acknowledged that Bolt d’Oro, the Juvenile favorite, “is a very good horse” and will be tough to beat.
ARROGATE (Classic): Last year’s BC Classic winner and this year’s Dubai World Cup winner has fallen on hard times lately, losing his last two starts. He was a no-show when finishing fourth of five in the Sand Diego at Del Mar in July and came with an improved effort when second to stablemate Collected in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic.
The top-ranked horse in the world, Arrogate now may only be second favourite in the Classic.
“I think Dubai took a lot more out of him than I thought it did because he had to run so hard,” Baffert said.
Baffert said he put the San Diego race behind him and says he’s preparing Arrogate like he did last year
“He looks great,” Baffert said.
Baffert acknowledged that Gun Runner is also training great.
“I was trying to find something negative about him but I couldn’t see a chink in the armor,” Baffert said.
COLLECTED (Classic): A four-year-old son of City Zip, Collected has won all four of his starts this year, and six of his last seven overall. His only loss was a 10th-place finish in the Preakness Stakes which was run over a sloppy track.
His pedigree does not suggest he would be effective at 1 1-4 miles, but he went gate to wire in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at that distance, holding off Arrogate.
“A mile and a quarter at Del Mar, you can take a good miler there and get away with it,” Baffert said.
MUBTAAHIJ (Classic): Fourth behind Arrogate, Gun Runner and Neolithic in the Dubai World Cup, he came back to win the Grade 1 Awesome Again at Satna Anita in what was his first start for Baffert.
“He’s going to need a super set-up,” Baffert said.
WEST COAST (Classic): Baffert has won the Classic the last three years with a three-year-old and West Coast is a three-year-old coming in with a five-race winning streak that includes victories in the Travers at Saratoga and Pennsylvania Derby at Parx.
He has a versatile running style that saw him win the Los Alamitos Derby from sixth and the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby from on the pace.
“He’s a horse that’s on the improve, he likes a mile-and-a-quarter, he deserves a shot,” Baffert said. “We know how tough these three-year-olds can be this time of the year.”