Saturday's $100,000 Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes – the first of nine graded stakes on the fall racing at Del Mar schedule – falls right in the wheelhouse of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
It's for 2-year-olds at seven furlongs on the main track, conditions which have produced an ample number of victories that have contributed to his track leading numbers for stakes and overall wins by a trainer.
It is the distance and age group – albeit for fillies – that provided Baffert's most recent stakes victory, with Chasing Yesterday in Monday's $100,000 Desi Arnaz Stakes.
So it was no surprise to see Baffert with two prime candidates, Metropol and Mucho Gusto, in a field of seven when post positions were drawn Wednesday for Saturday's program. Both were impressive winners at first asking in maiden special weight races: Mucho Gusto by four lengths on September 20 at Los Alamitos; Metropol by three-quarters of a length at Santa Anita on October 8.
But yesterday morning, Baffert's double-barrel opportunity got reduced to a single shot.
“Metropol got sick, he had a 103 temperature and we're going to have to scratch him,” Baffert said by phone from Santa Anita. “The owner had already flown in and I had to call with the news.”
Metropol is owned by the Peachtree Stables of John Fort.
Metropol, a son of Shackleford who was a $200,000 purchase at the Ocala sale in April, was the 4-1 co-third choice on oddsmaker Russ Hudak's morning line. The scratch still leaves Baffert with the 5-2 morning line favorite, Mucho Gusto, a son of Mucho Macho Man owned by Michael Peterson.
The field from the rail: Extra Hope (Flavien Prat, 7-2), Mucho Gusto (Joe Talamo, 5-2), Savagery (Rafael Bejarano, 4-1), Owning (Mario Gutierrez, 15-1), Sparky Ville (Jeff Bonde, 3-1) and Sueno (Kent Desormeaux, 15-1).
Baffert reported that Chasing Yesterday came out of her victory in Monday's Desi Arnaz Stakes in good order and will be targeted for the Starlet at Los Alamitos in early December.
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