Plans for Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers presented by NYRA Bets winner West Coast, are up in the air, said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert by phone Sunday morning.
West Coast will jet back to the west coast first thing Monday morning with the contingent of Southern California horses which contested the stakes races here over the weekend.
Baffert, who also captured the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego with reigning Sprint champion and 2016 Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Drefong and watched American Anthem take third in the Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Saturday, said that he is not yet targeting the Awesome Again at Santa Anita, the Breeders' Cup Classic or any other spot for West Coast.
“We don't even know what his next start is, or even if he's going to be in the Classic. Right now, we just want to get him home and then we'll figure out a game plan. Right now, we're not thinking anything for him,” he said.
West Coast, who along with his stablemates emerged from their efforts hale, hearty and happy, went coast-to-coast to score by 3 ¼ lengths under Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who was riding Gary and Mary West's $425,000 yearling purchase for only the second time.
“We knew he was doing well. We knew we might have to put him near or on the lead, but we weren't sure how he was going to handle that,” Baffert said of the horse who in six prior starts had let his connections know he was a horse who did not like to be hurried. “We're happy it worked out.”
Baffert said he was also extremely pleased with Drefong, but at the same time was scratching his head over the performance of American Anthem, who disappointed as the short-priced favorite in his race. They were ridden as well by Smith, who was at the barn with Baffert at Del Mar Sunday morning working horses.
“We're just trying to figure out what happened to American Anthem. He didn't run his race. It happens,” said the trainer. “Drefong is a fast horse. It all worked out great with him. It was really nice winning the Forego because it's a very prestigious and important race.”
Speaking of the highest caliber races, when Baffert and Smith won the 148th Travers with West Coast after combining to win the 147th edition with Arrogate, they became the first trainer-jockey tandem to repeat in storied Travers history. Only a handful of trainers have won back-to-back editions, and in the last 50 years just Shug McGaughey accomplished the feat with Easy Goer and Rhythm in 1989 and 1990, respectively.
“It's a lot of fun to win on those big days like that, and it's especially nice to win at Saratoga where the fans are really into racing and so appreciative,” said Baffert, who won his third Travers overall, including his 2001 victory with Horse of the Year Point Given.
Throughout the week the trainer kept his comments about West Coast, who had won three straight races but was jumping up into Grade 1 company for the first time. With West Coast largely flying under the radar, the bettors allowed the son of Flatter and Juvenile Fillies champion Caressing to go off as the fourth wagering choice at 6-1 and he returned $14.20 for a $2 investment.
“I think my Travers runner will probably go off at 2-5 next year no matter what kind of horse he is,” Baffert said.
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