01/05/2018 12:20PM

2017 Eclipse Awards: Solomini

Email

Solomini didn’t exactly endear himself to trainer Bob Baffert early in his 2-year-old season. By the end of it, however, he gave Baffert a good feeling heading into 2018 that he has a Kentucky Derby contender.

A maiden victory and placings in three consecutive Grade 1 stakes earned Solomini a spot as a finalist for the Eclipse Award as North America’s top 2-year-old male horse of 2017.

Solomini, named after owner Ahmed Zayat’s grandson Solomon, is a son of Curlin out of the Storm Cat mare Surf Song, herself a half-sister to the 2008 2-year-old champion Midshipman. Solomini brought $270,000 as a yearling at the 2016 Keeneland September auction.

Solomini won his debut Sept. 2 at Del Mar. Four weeks later, he stepped into Grade 1 company and finished a well-beaten second behind the undefeated Bolt d’Oro in the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita.

Going into the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar, Baffert wasn’t sure what to expect from Solomini, who wasn’t a flashy workhorse.

“He’s a horse that earlier wasn’t showing a lot, but with each race he’s shown improvement,” Baffert said before the Juvenile. “He’s a grinder, he just grinds it out.”

In the Juvenile, Solomini chased U S Navy Flag through a quick opening half-mile, made the lead around the middle of the far turn, but gave way to Good Magic, who went off to a 4 1/2-length victory. Solomini finished second, a length in front of Bolt d’Oro.

“He’s getting better. He had to do all the dirty work,” Baffert said after the Breeders’ Cup. “The fact he held second, taking all that heat, shows a lot of quality there.”

Solomini again showed his quality in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 9. After racing last of five around the far turn, he got into a three-way stretch battle with McKinzie and Instilled Regard. While Solomini prevailed at the wire by three-quarters of a length, the stewards deemed he came in a step from the right-handed whip of Flavien Prat and caused bumping that prohibited Instilled Regard from finishing better than third. Solomini was disqualified from first and placed third in a controversial call.

“It’s really too bad they took him down,” said Baffert, who ultimately won the race with McKinzie. “He was the better horse today.”

At least the result showed that Solomini is getting better and should have a bright future as a 3-year-old. Solomini, who returned to the work tab on Dec. 28, is one of several 3-year-olds Baffert will point down the Triple Crown trail. A schedule for his 2018 campaign has yet to be made.