12/07/2016 12:26PM

Baffert's cupboard far from bare following American Pharoah's retirement

Benoit & Associates
Mastery is one of two runners trainer Bob Baffert will send out in Saturday's Los Alamitos Futurity.

The legendary horse is gone, and with him the crowds that frequently visited the barn with no notice, searching for a glimpse at greatness. More than a year has gone by since American Pharoah left trainer Bob Baffert’s stable for a stud career after a historic 2015 season of winning the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

There has been no letdown for Baffert in 2016. Through Tuesday, Baffert’s runners have earned $16.3 million, not far behind the $17.4 million earned in 2015. Arrogate, the winner of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August and the BC Classic at Santa Anita last month, has led a barn that could challenge the 2015 earnings figure in the coming weeks.

“After last year, and losing Pharoah, it was an exciting year, and you’re wondering if you’ll get your hands on another superstar like that,” Baffert said on a recent morning at Santa Anita. “For two months, it was sad not having him around. Every day, there was excitement.

“Here comes Arrogate. He puts a pep back in everyone’s step.”

Arrogate will not race again this year; his next start is expected to be the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28. For the rest of this month, Baffert has runners in several leading stakes in Southern California, beginning with two $300,000 races for 2-year-olds at Los Alamitos on Saturday – the Starlet Stakes and the Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity.

Mastery, the undefeated winner of the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar last month, will be favored in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity at 1 1/16 miles. Baffert is also planning to start Show Me Da Lute, the winner of a maiden race at 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Oct. 29.

In the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, Baffert has the likely favorite in American Gal, who was third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on Nov. 5. Fact of Life, second in an allowance race at seven furlongs at Del Mar last month, is another candidate for the Starlet.

Baffert has more candidates than those runners but said this week that he was content having two starters in each race.

“I only have two bridles down there, so I can only run two,” he said in his typical wisecracking style. “We keep a tight ship.”

The stable has a strong team of 2-year-olds, including two sharp winners in recent weeks – Beach Bum, a maiden-race winner at Santa Anita on Nov. 6, and American Anthem, who won a maiden race at Del Mar last Saturday in his debut. American Anthem closed 3 1/2 lengths in the final furlong to win a six-furlong race by a neck over pacesetter Little Juanito.

“It never looked like he would catch that horse,” Baffert said.

There is much more to the stable than a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and outstanding 2-year-olds.

Vale Dori won the Grade 2 Bayakoa Stakes at Del Mar last Saturday and will start in the $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes for fillies and mares on dirt at Santa Anita on Feb. 11.

“She’s improving,” Baffert said.

The millionaire older horses Dortmund and Hoppertunity are in light training for 2017 campaigns. Hoppertunity is a long-term prospect for the $10 million Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emirates on March 25, a race in which he was third behind California Chrome this year.

“He moves way up in Dubai,” he said.

Drefong, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 5, is scheduled to run in the $300,000 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, along with the lightly raced Ten Blessings, the winner of an optional claimer at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.

Those runners give Baffert strong groups in three of the categories in which his stable excels – Triple Crown hopefuls, sprinters, and older horses racing on dirt. All of that without American Pharoah.