Six of the 15 prizes handed out to 3-year-olds competing in American Graded Stakes thus far in 2012 have been taken by the East Coast's dominating conditioner, Todd Pletcher, and by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, the top dog in California. And with a flurry of prep races for the Triple Crown on the immediate horizon and the barns of those two trainers having a deep and rich talent pool, their dominance is likely to continue.
Baffert's three AGS victories for 3-year-olds came this past weekend when Drill won the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita and Castaway and Secret Circle took divisions of the G3 Southwest at Oaklawn Park.
Pletcher earlier won the G2 Hutcheson with Thunder Moccasin and the G3 Holy Bull with Algorithms, and the filly Broadway's Alibi won the G2 Forward Gal. All three races were at Gulfstream Park.
With so much 3-year-old talent in the barns of both trainers, people are beginning to speculate how many stalls in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby starting gate are going to be filled with horses trained by Pletcher and Baffert. I'd put the over-unders at eight. Both men have a variety of clients with lofty aspirations, and nothing is loftier than the Derby.
Baffert is already starting to think about his 2013 crop of 3-year-olds (as, I'm sure, Pletcher is, too). “I've got a really small group of 2-year-olds that I'll be getting this year,” said Baffert. “It wasn't easy buying horses at the yearling sale last year. It was super competitive and prices were high.”
That could be very good news this spring for consignors at 2-year-olds in training sales, where over the years Baffert has found some of his best Triple Crown prospects, including the 2010 3-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky, who was purchased at the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training for $475,000. After being voted Eclipse Awards at 2 and 3, the Smart Strike colt was sold to Coolmore and now stands at Ashford Stud in Kentucky.
Of Baffert's trio of weekend 3-year-old AGS winners, Drill was purchased at a 2-year-old sale (after being pinhooked from the Keeneland September yearling sale). Castaway and Drill were also bought at the Keeneland September sale.
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