01/08/2013 6:45PM

2012 Eclipse Awards: Contested

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photo by: Barbara D. Livingston

There were moments during 2012 when a filly named Contested seemed untouchable. Except for the one time when her Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert, asked her to race farther than a mile, Contested was outstanding, going 4 for 4 when capturing such major events as the Grade 1 Test Stakes, the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes, and the Grade 3 Eight Belles.

Owned by Baffert’s wife, Jill, Contested emerged as a real standout in 2012, dominating her 3-year-old rivals in races from 6 1/2 furlongs to a mile. She began her year with an auspicious triumph in an April 15 allowance sprint at Santa Anita, drawing off on a contested pace to prevail by nearly six lengths as a 1-5 favorite.

Shipped to Churchill Downs with the rest of Baffert’s contingent for Kentucky Derby week, Contested wowed the huge Kentucky Oaks crowd when surging from just off the early pace to take the seven-furlong Eight Belles by nearly five lengths.

Three and a half weeks later, Contested once again was extremely impressive when dominating all the running of the one-mile Acorn at Belmont Park, winning by five lengths as an even-money favorite under Javier Castellano.

“I just wanted to sit still and not move until it was the right time and the right place,” Castellano said. “She enjoyed the trip and just galloped.”
Baffert then tried Contested in the Grade 1 Mother Goose at 1 1/16 miles, and the filly threw in the only clunker of her life, finishing last of five when beating a steady fade down the stretch. After regrouping with a series of strong works at Del Mar, she rebounded with another sensational effort in the seven-furlong Test at Saratoga, rallying from six lengths off a torrid pace to prevail by two lengths at even money.

“We knew she would be coming from off the pace,” Baffert said from California after the race. “We knew she could do it.”
Contested had five recorded workouts at Santa Anita in the weeks leading up to the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, where she would have met the older Groupie Doll, but Baffert declared her out just a few days before the Nov. 2 race, saying the filly lost valuable training time when she came down with a virus in the preceding weeks.

Castellano, Martin Garcia, and Rafael Bejarano were the jockeys who rode Contested during her 2012 campaign.

A Kentucky-bred filly by Ghostzapper out of Gold Vault, by Arch, Contested earned $594,154 when going 4 for 5 for the year. Her career record was 5-1-0 from 7 starts for total earnings of $633,754. Bred by Cherry Valley Farm LLC, she was purchased as a yearling for $110,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September sales.

Baffert often had fun talking about Contested in the context of his wife owning the filly, joking after the Acorn that “we’re not used to owning horses that good. We’re used to buying horses for $100,000 and selling them for $5,000.”

The Bafferts entered Contested in the November sale at Keeneland, where she brought $2.3 million from the Yoshida family’s Shadai Farm in Japan. She is scheduled to be bred this year to a son of the late sire Sunday Silence.