Bob Baffert Seeks Eighth Del Mar Futurity Since 2008, Trains Morning Line Favorite Eight Rings

Posted on: September 2, 2019, 02:40h. 

Last updated on: September 2, 2019, 02:32h.

Del Mar closes out its summer meet on Monday, and the next-to-last race of the day may just feature the next Kentucky Derby winner.

Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, Eight Rings cruised to a victory in his first race last month at Del Mar. Now, in his second race, the Bob Baffert-trained colt is the morning line favorite in Monday’s Del Mar Futurity. (Image: Del Mar)

The Grade I Del Mar Futurity features a field of eight 2-year-old colts who will race seven furlongs at the Southern California track. Bob Baffert trains two of the entries, including morning line favorite Eight Rings.

In recent years, the Hall of Fame trainer has enjoyed quite a bit of success in this race.

Last year, Baffert’s Game Winner claimed the Futurity prior to winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and five years ago, his American Pharoah started a winning streak that carried through to the Triple Crown. Since 2008, his horses have crossed first seven times in the race.

Besides Pharoah, 2016 Derby winner Nyquist also won the Futurity, one of his five Grade I stakes wins in his career.

Can Eight Rings Live up to Hype?

Eight Rings won his only start nearly a month ago at Del Mar, cruising to a victory under Drayden Van Dyke by more than six lengths in a 5-1/2-furlong race. On Monday, he’ll start from the second gate. Oddsmakers set his morning line odds at 5-2.

Purchased at the Keeneland auction for $520,000 last year, Eight Rings started drawing attention with a couple of blistering workouts earlier this summer in preparation for his first win.

Baffert’s other colt is Garth. In his only start, a maiden special weight at Del Mar on Aug. 10, he broke slowly out of the gate. However, he still managed to claim the lead at the stretch in the 5-1/2-furlong race before Storm the Court passed him to win by a length-and-a-half.

Garth, who will be ridden by Mike Smith for the first time, drew the fifth gate for the Futurity and shares 5-1 third choice odds with Storm the Court.

They’re both doing well, one will be favored and the other will be close, so I just hope they run to their odds,” Baffert told reporters earlier this week. “Garth’s race was a real head-scratcher.  We thought for sure he would win, but before they run, you never know.”

Trained by Peter Eurton, Storm the Court will break from the inside gate. In beating Garth last month, the colt, ridden by Flavien Prat, used the inside lane to stay in second throughout the race before finally clearing Garth in the final sixteenth.

Wrecking Opportunity?

The second choice on the morning line board is Wrecking Crew at 7-2. He’s finished in the money in both of his races. After winning a maiden at Del Mar on July 27, trainer Peter Miller brought him back on short rest to go in the Grade II Best Pal Stakes. Ridden by Smith in the six-furlong race, he got off to a slow start and ran four wide in the turn, but he still managed a late charge to finish second.

With Smith aboard Garth for Baffert, Abel Cedeno gets the mount on Wrecking Crew, who may just benefit from the extra furlong Monday.

Like Baffert, Miller has two entries in the field. Wrecking Crew drew the outside gate. Just inside him will be Nucky, who comes in with the most experience. It took four races, but he broke his maiden 12 days ago with a 10-1/2-length win in a Del Mar maiden claimer. That was with Prat on the mount. On Monday, Norberto Arroyo Jr. gets the call.

Nucky’s morning line odds are 8-1.

Others in the Field

At 6-1, the Richard Baltas-trained Ginobili starts from the fourth gate, and Florent Geroux gets the call. On Aug. 17, in his second start, he went wire-to-wire over six furlongs and held a 2-1/2-length lead down the stretch. At odds of nearly 20-1, he rewarded bettors nicely.

Trainer Doug O’Neill will run the other two colts in the field. Fore Left finished just a neck back of Wrecking Crew in the Best Pal. He also did that carrying three more pounds than Wrecking Crew. He’ll carry 123 pounds again Monday, the heaviest of all entries.

Defense Wins, his other entry, finished second in his only race, a Del Mar maiden on July 21 where he stayed with the leaders for the second half of the race. Former basketball coach Rick Pitino, who owns a stake in the young horse, named him in honor of his basketball philosophy.

Mario Gutierrez will ride Fore Left, who will start sixth at 8-1 morning line odds. Rafael Bejarano gets the call on Defense Wins, who breaks from the third gate with morning line odds of 12-1.

Post time for the race is set for 6:08 pm PT.

The Del Mar Futurity isn’t officially a Kentucky Derby prep race. Those races will start on Sept. 14 when Churchill Downs runs the Iroquois.