This is trainer Bob Baffert’s really fun time of the year, running his stable full of talented 3-year-olds and learning which ones are ready for the big time and which are maybe a cut below.
Cave Rock, Arabian Knight and Faustin might be at the head of the class right now, but Baffert unveiled three others Sunday at Santa Anita that he hopes could develop into a Santa Anita Derby contender by April 8.
Reincarnate, a son of Good Magic, was Baffert’s latest success story, showing lots of heart in winning the $100,000 Grade III Sham Stakes by a neck over stablemate Newgate in a good time of 1: 35.87 for the mile. Baffert’s third runner, the 3-5 favorite National Treasure, finished another three-quarters of a length back in third while showing he might enjoy some added distance.
The meet’s leading rider, Juan Hernandez, took Reincarnate gate to wire through serious fractions of 22.28, 45.57 and 1: 09.55 as the winner withstood a stiff challenge from Newgate and Frankie Dettori through the length of the stretch in the race that annually kicks off the Road to the Kentucky Derby on the West Coast.
“It looks like this horse is getting better with every race,” Hernandez said. “The first couple of starts, he was a little green. He always liked to look around. Today he broke really sharp and actually he surprised me. I had come up with a plan to stay behind the speed, make him relax and make one move, but when the gate opened plans changed. I found myself in front, so I just let him run.”
And run he did, giving Baffert his record ninth victory in the Sham.
“He’s the kind of horse that can run all day long,” Baffert said. “He broke great and Juan just kind of let him run away from there. They were all on their own. I didn’t give anybody any instructions. I was watching Johnny (Velazquez, aboard National Treasure) and he was in tight the whole way. I’m proud of all three. I think the winner and Newgate ran great. It looked like Dettori was going to get it done. After looking at that time, that was serious time, they ran really fast.”
Reincarnate, the longest shot in the five-horse field at 16-1, was making the fifth start of his career. He finished second in his first three races and then found the winner’s circle by three-quarters of a length at Del Mar on Nov. 25.
Newgate, an Into Mischief colt, was also racing for the fifth time, having broken his maiden by 3 1/2 lengths in his debut on July 30 at Del Mar before coming up short in three graded-stakes races.
National Treasure went into the race off a third-place finish behind the highly regarded Forte and Cave Rock in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland on Nov. 4 in the third start of his career.
The second betting choice in the race, Spun Intended (2-1), dueled early for the lead but was eased by jockey Mike Smith at the eighth pole. He walked into the van following the race.
Santa Ynez Stakes
In a $200,000 Grade III stakes race for 3-year-old fillies with Santa Anita Oaks aspirations, 1-2 favorite Ice Dancing breezed home by 3 1/4 lengths under Flavien Prat for trainer Richard Mandella.
The race lost some of its luster with the scratch of pre-race favorite Justique, who spiked a fever earlier in the week and was scratched by trainer John Shirreffs.
Ice Dancing, who went in off a one-length victory in a maiden special weight on Nov. 25 at Del Mar, rallied from fifth early on to win comfortably and collect the winner’s share of $120,000 while running the 7 furlongs in 1: 22.78.