03/02/2010 12:00AM

Baffert duo have much to prove


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Bob Baffert already has 2009 champion 2-year-old male Lookin At Lucky at the head of his team for the Kentucky Derby. He is looking for a few supporting players and has two candidates running in an optional claimer at Santa Anita on Wednesday.


Indian Firewater, second in the Turf Paradise Derby on Feb. 20, and Bulldogger, unraced since winning a maiden race at Saratoga in August, are among eight 3-year-olds in the one-mile race. A win or a strong finish could justify a start in a prep race for the Kentucky Derby. A bad result would pretty much end hopes for a trip to Kentucky.

"We'll know a lot on Wednesday," Baffert said.

The Baffert team will be challenged by Boulder Creek, a maiden race winner on Feb. 5 in his fourth start; Distorted Dave and Timbavati, who were beaten in optional claimers in early February; and Thomas Baines, who was sixth in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 20.

Indian Firewater is making a quick comeback from the Turf Paradise Derby over 1 1/16 miles. The 1-2 favorite, Indian Firewater led by 1 1/2 lengths at eighth pole but could not sustain the advantage and finished 3 1/4 lengths behind Dixie Commander.

"He got tired going long at Turf," Baffert said. "He looked good coming back" into training at Santa Anita.

Indian Firewater is making his eighth start Wednesday. On Feb. 3, he was second to stablemate The Program in an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles, losing by a nose after holding the early lead.

Bulldogger has not started since Aug. 29 when he won a six-furlong maiden race in the slop by 6 1/2 lengths. Bulldogger was entered in a six-furlong optional claimer here Feb. 12, but was scratched because he had mucus, Baffert said. The colt was sidelined last fall by sore shins.

"He's had a long layoff," Baffert said. "We'll see if he can go two turns."

Baffert said he has no specific strategy for the pair; both can race near the front.

"It will be however they break," he said.

A fast pace may benefit Boulder Creek. Trained by Craig Dollase, Boulder Creek was third, fourth, and second in his first three starts before winning a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles by a length on Feb. 5.