It’s tough enough to win a stakes in one weekend, let alone two in the same weekend and both coming in the biggest stakes.
Bob Baffert is certainly the King of trainers on the Southern California circuit and it showed.
Saturday afternoon, both he and jockey Martin Garcia teamed up on Ellafitz, the 4/5 post time favorite. She would go gate to wire and take the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita despite posting quick fractions of 22.3 and 46.0 for the first half mile. She was left alone and that was a big mistake for the rest of the field. She held a one length lead after six furlongs which went in 1:10.2. At the top of the stretch, her lead was cut to 1/2 length as 19/1 longshot Miss Mittagong was making a move on the rail. The five year old Tiznow mare didn’t push the panic button. Garcia gave her a quick tap and she took off. Under some urging down the stretch, Ellafitz would take the 1 1/16 miles race by 1 1/4 lengths, giving the Baffert/Garcia duo their first win of the weekend. She completed the race in 1:42.2.
On Sunday, Baffert was sending his three year old colt Drill, with Garcia aboard, in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes. The race was seven furlongs and only four were left come post time after Captain Obvious (IRE) and Smoking G were scratched. Included in the other three horses was the multiple graded winner Creative Cause who was making his three year old debut. He would go to post as the 2/5 favorite. This was his first start since finishing 3rd in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November. As for Drill, he had gone backwards since finishing 2nd to Creative Cause in the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes on October 1. He was 10th in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, 7th in the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes, 9th in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity and most recently 5th in the San Pedro Stakes. In the San Vicente, he would come out well, sitting just 1 1/2 lengths behind the pacesetter American Act. American Act would set fractions of 22.3 and 45.4 for the first 1/2 mile. As they turned for home, the two would be side by side as Drill made his move around the far turn. The two would go neck and neck the entire stretch but in the end, the head bob would go in favor of Drill. He finished the 7 furlongs in 1:21.0. The favorite Creative Cause was at the back until half way down the stretch. He would get settle for 3rd, a length behind American Act and the most further from Drill.
So does this mean Drill is back into form after those four subpar performances? Well, it was certainly nice to see him put forth this solid effort, but keep in mind this was a four horse field. It will be interesting to see what Baffert does with him moving forward. Does he keep him as a middle distance runner or does he believe he can run the longer, more grueling races in the triple crown.
STAT: For Baffert, this was his third graded stakes win of the year as he saddled Game on Dude to victory in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes. For Garcia, these were his first two graded wins on the year. I’m sure there will be many more for these two in 2012.