10/24/2008 12:00AM

Baffert expecting more from Midshipman


ARCADIA, Calif. - Last week, after pre-entries closed for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, trainer Bob Baffert made a point to seek out Bobby Frankel, majority owner and trainer of leading 2-year-old Vineyard Haven.

"I said, 'Thank you for not entering,' " Baffert said. " 'I think you left a million dollars on the table.' "

A million dollars-plus will go to the winner of Saturday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, and Baffert is one of 11 trainers - with a total of 13 horses - hoping to take home the top prize. Baffert is the trainer of Midshipman, who comes off a second-place finish to Street Hero in the Grade 1 Norfolk run here on Sept. 28.

Baffert believes he saw something in that race that he can correct and thinks his horse will run "much better" on Saturday. An improved performance and the addition of jockey Garrett Gomez could just land Midshipman in the winner's circle.

"My horses always run better second time going long," said Baffert, who won the 2002 Juvenile with Vindication. "I like the way he looks going into this race better than he did last time. I sort of rushed him."

Midshipman won his debut at Del Mar on Aug. 17 and came back 17 days later to win the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity. Four days before running in the Norfolk, Midshipman breezed four furlongs in 46.80 seconds.

"He worked a little too fast right before that last race," Baffert said. "He was a little skittish that day, it was hot."

Baffert indicated that a change of tactics could be in the offing, so expect Midshipman, who breaks from post 11, to be closer to the pace than he was in the Norfolk.

Four of the top six finishers from the Norfolk are in the Juvenile. Street Hero, a maiden going into the Norfolk, came out a Grade 1 winner when blinkers were added for the first time. The blinkers came at the suggestion of Alex Solis, who had ridden the horse to a third-place finish in the Del Mar Futurity.

Owner/trainer Myung Kwon Cho used a thin-cupped blinker for the Norfolk, but Street Hero still had his head cocked. Cho will use full-cup blinkers for the Juvenile.

"He's more focused," Solis said. "Even this week when I worked him, he was more focused."

Off his impressive victory in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity - his first start in this country - Square Eddie is likely to go off favored in the Juvenile. Handicappers will be grappling with the dreaded Euro-bounce, a theory that European horses that run great first time off the plane tend to regress, or bounce, next out.

"The things that are obvious tipoffs to a bounce are signs of fatigue or their appetite not being real strong," said Doug O'Neill, who took over the training of Square Eddie following the Lane's End. "He hasn't shown any of those signs; he's had a tremendous appetite ever since we've had him. He's full of energy. We're real excited."

O'Neill also is excited about the chances of Azul Leon, who finished sixth in his two-turn debut in the Norfolk.

"He ended up getting behind a rather mediocre pace," O'Neill said. "I think he's a horse, in hindsight, that would have been better served being a little bit closer to the pace."

Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out the uncoupled entry of Munnings and Silent Valor in the Juvenile. Munnings ran second to Vineyard Haven in the Champagne. Munnings has not broken well in any of his three starts, and his rail post position could be problematic.

At the top of the stretch in the Norfolk, Silent Valor loomed boldly just outside the leaders before fading in the stretch. Pletcher believes his horse has license to improve second time going long and over the Pro-Ride surface.

A strong early pace could help the chances of Terrain and Pioneerof the Nile - second and third in the Lane's End - and West Side Bernie, the undefeated winner of the Kentucky Cup Juvenile.