Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby (G1) five times, has a pair of Triple Crown winners and is locked and loaded toward the first Saturday of May again in 2020 with a very talented group of three-year-olds.
Baffert is seeking to tie Ben Jones as the only six-time winner of the Run for the Roses. Jones won his six with just 11 starters spanning 1938 to 1952 while Baffert has started 32 runners with his first coming in 1996. Baffert went 0 for 3 last year, the best finish coming with Improbable, who was elevated to fourth with the disqualification of Maximum Security.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has saddled the most starters in the first jewel of the Triple Crown with 54, winning twice—Super Saver in 2010 and Always Dreaming in 2017.
With just over two months until the Kentucky Derby, Baffert is sitting pretty with a solid group of talented three-year-olds. Let’s take a quick look at his top contenders:
This colt is the current betting favorite at US Racing in early Kentucky Derby wagering at 8-1. The colt was unraced as a juvenile, making his debut a winning one on Jan. 19 at Santa Anita earning a 98 Beyer Speed Figure. His stakes debut came at seven furlongs in the San Vicente (G2) where he dueled for the early lead while in between foes and battled on gamely to prevail by ¾ of a length over Ginobili, earning a 91 Beyer.
Next up for the colt is the Rebel (G2) on March 14 at Oaklawn Park, a race Baffert has won six times in the past 11 years. The colt was a $700,000 purchase, out of the Pulpit mare Ascending Angel (0 for 12, $23,030) who has dropped one other foal to race, 0 for 5 Angel Number.
Nadal Wins San Vicente
Here is another undefeated runner who made his debut as a juvenile, breaking his maiden back on Nov. 9 at Del Mar at 5 ½ furlongs earning an 87 Beyer. His stakes debut came in the Sham (G3) at a mile at Santa Anita where he took the field gate to wire and won by 7 ¾ lengths, earning a Beyer of 90. His stablemate Azul Coast came out of that race to win the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in his next outing on Feb. 15.
Currently at 10-1 in early Kentucky Derby betting at USRacing, the colt is out of the stakes winner Sky Treasure ($492,426), her first foal to race. Next up for Authentic is the San Felipe (G2) on March 7 at Santa Anita.
El Camino Real Derby Replay
This Baffert trainee turned heads with a 5 ¾ length maiden score at 6-5 in his debut on Feb. 16. He earned a lofty 105 Beyer speed figure going six furlongs, although he only had to beat three foes. With just one start under his belt he is currently at 16-1 at USRacing for the Derby, with just four foes at lower prices.
The inclination is to think that a debut winner on Feb. 16 would have too much to do to make it to the Derby just 2 ½ months later, but do not forget Baffert’s Justify did not make his debut until Feb. 18 of 2018 and four months later he had put the “Apollo Curse” to rest that a Derby winner had to have raced as a juvenile and ended up a Triple Crown champion.
I am not sure where this colt is going to show up next. Baffert probably knows but is keeping to close to the vest for now.
“Right now, I’m still not talking about it too much,” he said. “I’ve got to figure out where I’m going to run them. Everybody keeps asking me every day, ‘What are you going to do?’ I know what I’m going to do, but only I know. Things change and I don’t want to jinx them.”
He is by Speightstown out of the multiple graded stakes winner Authenticity ($883,362), who has dropped one other runner, Hanalei Moon ($295,090) who won the One Dreamer Stakes on turf at Kentucky Downs last summer.
Thousand Words (16-1)
His win the Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita was his third win in as many starts and the colt is currently at odds of 16-1 in early Kentucky Derby wagering at USRacing.
The colt broke his maiden in his debut and has two graded stakes wins at two turns under his belt already. He won the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) last December and won the Lewis in his three-year-old debut, earning a Beyer of 92.
He is being pointed toward the San Felipe at Santa Anita on March 7 where he likely will face his stablemate Authenticity.
Thousand Words is by Pioneerof the Nile out of the stakes winner Pomeroys Pistol ($574,678), who did her best work sprinting including wins in the Forward Gal (G2) and Gallant Bloom Handicap (G3). She has dropped two other foals to race with one winner, 1 for 10 Moon Pistol.
Thousand Words Wins Robert B. Lewis
Eight Rings (25-1)
This colt won the American Pharoah (G1) last year but has not been seen since running sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) in November.
It looked as if this colt was off the Road to the Kentucky Derby, but he reappeared with a work on Feb. 13 and another on Feb. 21 at Santa Anita.
This colt is by Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Empire Maker out of the Grade 3 winning mare Purely Hot ($429,905). Her Grade 3 win came at six furlongs on the synthetic surface at Woodbine. She is by Pure Prize, so there is some stamina in the bottom of her pedigree.
His price stands now at 25-1 which could shrink substantially if he makes it to Hot Springs in a couple of weeks.
Eight Rings Wins 2019 American Pharoah
Azul Coast (50-1)
The El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields is a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race, but it is run on a synthetic surface and has not had much impact on the Triple Crown races.
Azul Coast won the race by 1 ¼ lengths as the betting favorite and earned 10 Derby points to go along with the four points he earned in his runner up finish in the Sham at Santa Anita to kick off his three-year-old season.
The $320,000 purchase is by Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver out of the stakes winner Sky Treasure ($492,426), Azul Coast being her first foal to race.
I am not sure what’s next for this colt but the Sunland Derby (G3) on March 22 seems like a logical spot. Baffert has won that race three times.
With Beyers of 74, 77 and then a 74 for his latest win in the El Camino Real Derby, he likely would not be getting much attention except for the fact that he is in the Baffert barn.