Juddmonte returning to California, brings Baffert on board
Juddmonte Farms, victorious in major Southern California races like the Hollywood Gold Cup, Hollywood Turf Cup, Eddie Read Handicap, and Pacific Classic, will reemerge on the West Coast next year with a small string of horses trained by Bob Baffert.
Juddmonte purchased four yearlings at the Keeneland September Sale, with three of them – an Elusive Quality colt out of Xtra Heat, a Tapit filly out of Arradoul, and a Curlin colt out of Leslie’s Lady – targeted for the barn of the Hall of Fame conditioner.
Garrett O’Rourke, who manages the Juddmonte Farms Kentucky operation for Saudi Arabian owner Prince Khalid Abdullah, said Baffert was very much involved in the selection process for the yearlings purchased in Juddmonte’s name, with an emphasis on horses that will have early speed.
“The Prince has been out there and misses having horses in California,” said O’Rourke. “He has a lot of trophies from races like the Pacific Classic and Hollywood Gold Cup. California still has a very strong stakes program, and he likes being part of it.”
Most of the California successes for Juddmonte were with the late Hall of Fame conditioner, Bobby Frankel. Since his death, Bill Mott has taken over training most of the Juddmonte runners in North America, but Mott is based on the East Coast. O’Rourke said the move to buy yearlings and place them with Baffert does not in any way change Juddmonte’s commitment to Mott or reduce the number of horses he will get from the farm. Juddmonte foals between 65-70 homebreds in North America annually, with another 120 or so in Europe.
Juddmonte, with 15 Eclipse Awards including five for outstanding breeder and two for outstanding owner, is one of the world’s most successful Thoroughbred racing and breeding operations, with victories in virtually every European classic race. It is third in money won in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, with $8,758,400 in earnings from 64 starters. Unbeaten homebred Frankel, named after the late trainer, is looked upon by many as one of the greatest European runners of all time.
In the U.S., Juddmonte has won numerous prestigious races, including a Kentucky Oaks with Flute and a Belmont Stakes with Empire Maker. But one trophy that has eluded Prince Khalid is the Kentucky Derby.
O’Rourke was asked if the Derby trophy was in the back of his mind when Baffert, a three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer, was brought on board to reopen a California division.
“No matter where your horses are stabled the Derby trophy is always in the back of your mind,” O’Rourke. “The problem is it’s in the back of everyone’s mind.”