Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez is now the all-time leading graded stakes winner in North America, following his 661st graded victory aboard Bast in Friday's Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita. The previous record was held by Jerry Bailey.
“This means a lot. (Jerry Bailey) is a guy who I rode with for so many years and have looked up to for so long,” said Velazquez. “It's incredible.”
The 2-year-old Uncle Mo filly, owned by the Baoma Corporation and trained by fellow Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, was favored at 1-5 after her win in the Del Mar Debutante. Bast had to work hard through the length of the stretch to out-finish 11-1 chance Comical by a head at the wire, completing 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:46.10.
“Down the backside she was going nice, then turning for home, John was like, 'Come on baby, we've got to go,' and she wasn't going,” said Baffert. “He thought she would respond, but I think this will get her ready for the next one (Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Nov. 1 at Santa Anita).”
The victory earns Bast an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Leucothea, breaking from the outside of the six-filly field, darted out at the start and lost rider Norberto Arroyo, Jr. The filly was apprehended by outriders and Arroyo walked off the track under his own power.
Comical was the first to the clubhouse turn, staying just off the inside rail and about a half-length ahead of Bast through fractions of :24.92 and :49.54. Been Studying Her was up the rail a close third, while Buyer's Remorse and K P Dreamin made up the rest of the compact field.
Bast drew even around the far turn, and the pair completed six furlongs in 1:13.98. Putting her head in front, Bast still had to contend with Comical through the entire length of the stretch and the winning margin was just a head. K P Dreamin got up for third.
“Going to the backstretch, she looked really good, and I was pretty confident,” Velazquez explained. “We got to the turn and I thought we might go a little wide, but I said 'no, no – you have to stay there.' I got up to her and she cruised down the lane and put her head out in front of the other horse. She gave me a lot today. I felt she gave me what she could to win the race.”
Bred in Kentucky by BlackRidge Stables, Bast is out of the Arch mare Laffina. Purchased for $200,000 as a weanling at the Keeneland November sale, the filly later commanded $500,000 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga. Second in her career debut behind Inspiressa, Bast won the Del Mar Debutante over that rival by 8 3/4 lengths. Overall, the filly has won two of her three starts for earnings of over $350,000.
“This is a very demanding, deep, heavy race track,” Baffert said. “Not only do you have to be really good, you have to be ready . . . The Chus (owners Charles and Susan) are really excited and we've been really lucky together, winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint with Drefong, so they've already had a champion.
“They've been great supporters of mine. I really think this race is going to move Bast up, so I feel pretty good about it. You're supposed to get tired first time two turns. They're a little bit confused; they're two-year-olds and they probably thought, 'What are we doing?' We have to go around again? We just started from there.' But she got the job done. I had gone a little light on her (training ) so I just told John she's not going to be as tight, but she's 1-9 so I felt there'd be a little room for error, but there wasn't much room at all.”
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