05/29/2013 4:04PM

Belmont Stakes: Baffert still weighing Code West's chances

Barbara D. Livingston
Code West, under consideration by his connections for the Belmont Stakes, seems likely to be withheld if the field grows too large for comfort.

Bob Baffert has won nine Triple Crown races, but the Hall of Fame trainer had little impact on this year’s races, with no runners in the Kentucky Derby and just one in the Preakness Stakes, and his participation in this year’s Belmont Stakes on June 8 is far from assured, with Baffert on Wednesday saying he was still contemplating whether to run Code West, who worked with stablemate Power Broker on Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.

“When you’re going a mile and a half,” Baffert said, referring to the Belmont Stakes distance, “nobody gets in a big hurry.”

[BELMONT STAKES: Probable field and latest updates]

Least of all Baffert, who is prone to changing his mind, frequently relying on gut instinct to guide him. He was at Santa Anita on Wednesday, and said reports from his employees at Churchill Downs were encouraging regarding the team drill, but Baffert had his eye cast farther east, to Belmont Park. Baffert intimated that the field size, and, in particular, the status of Derby winner Orb, were critical components of the decision facing he and owner Gary West regarding the $1 million Belmont.

“Mr. West wants to compete if he has a legitimate chance,” Baffert said. “If it’s a big field, he’s not really interested.

Gary West owns Code West and Power Broker with his wife, Mary. Baffert said both 3-year-olds act as though they have stamina to handle the Belmont, though Baffert said last week that Code West was being pointed to the race, not Power Broker.

“They keep going and going,” he said.

On Wednesday, Code West was credited by Churchill Downs clockers with a five-furlong time of 1:00.60, while Power Broker got an official time of 1:13.20 for six furlongs. Jorge Alvarez, one of Baffert’s top exercise riders, was aboard Code West, while jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. was on Power Broker.

According to Churchill clockers, the fractions for Code West were 12.40, 24.80, and 36.80 seconds, which means his final quarter-mile was in 23.80 seconds. Under the wire, Power Broker was about two lengths ahead. Clockers had Code West with a six-furlong gallop-out in 1:14.80.

“They both worked well. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” Baffert said. “There’s so many options with those two horses in the next two weeks.”

In chronological order, significant races for 3-year-olds in the Eastern time zone in upcoming weeks besides the Belmont include the $150,000 Easy Goer at 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park on the Belmont undercard, a pair of races on June  15 – the $150,000 Hill Prince at one mile on the turf at Belmont, and the $100,000 Matt Winn at 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs – and the $150,000 Pegasus at 1 1/16 miles at Monmouth Park on June 16.

Code West most recently won a first-level allowance race against older horses at Pimlico. Power Broker won a race with similar conditions at Churchill on May  10. Neither ran in either the Derby or Preakness.

Also on the fence regarding the Belmont are the connections of Vyjack, who was 18th in the Derby. They said they are considering the race, though owner David Wilkenfeld and trainer Rudy Rodriguez are not expected to make a decision until closer to entry day Wednesday.

Rodriguez said he worked Vyjack six furlongs at Aqueduct on Tuesday – Vyjack did not appear on the track’s official work tab – and he liked how the horse relaxed behind two other horses.

Rodriguez said that when Vyjack can get behind horses – as he did when he rallied from off the pace to win the Grade 3 Gotham – he relaxes and will perform better. In the Derby, breaking from post 20, Rodriguez said jockey Garrett Gomez could not get Vyjack to relax.

Rodriguez said he may van Vyjack to Belmont over the weekend and have him train over Belmont’s main track for a few days before deciding whether or not to run. Vyjack has never raced at Belmont.

Wilkenfeld, who missed Vyjack’s training session Tuesday after being involved in a bicycle accident on Monday, said running in the Belmont is “a tough decision.”

“The Belmont is always a puzzler to me,” Wilkenfeld said. “There’s no rhyme or reason to how the race is run. The one thing you don’t want is a dead closer. Rudy sounded really excited how the horse is training. I feel like we could wait until the last minute.”

– additional reporting by David Grening and Marty McGee

N Lad More than 1 year ago
If he runs, he, at least, hits the board at attractive odds. There's a lot to like about Code West in this spot.
zerosumzen More than 1 year ago
Just start twelve NY horses, call it the Belmont, and get it over with. The race obviously doesn't have bi-coastal appeal.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Bob's making smart moves for his horses. That's a GOOD thing. Ducking ORB in The Belmont if Shug runs him is smart. Isn't the name of the game to win. Find soft spots to build the horses confidence and bankroll. Why all the speculation if a horse is hurt? With the scrutiny Baffert has faced in the last year why question these intelligent agendas?
L.S. Heatherly More than 1 year ago
Have never seen a horse I did not like THAT: 1.Won 1st 4 races, in fast final times. 2. Caught the slop in Derby 4. Caught Post 20 in derby (too many horses to be a measure of a horse)! 3. Gomez: "could not get him to relax" in sloppy Derby. 4. Was scoped day after 1st loss in Wood Memorial to Verrazono and Norm Invasion-- mucous in the lungs; and treated 9 days for lung infection. 5. Tied the Aqu inner track record with fig of 100-11 (in January!). Summary : 4 impressive wins, followed by 2 throw out races!!! Prediction: Vyjack will be shipped to Belmont Stks. and run his best race ever with full oxygen to his lungs-- finishing in the top 2 - 4. L.S. Heatherly
Lucky P More than 1 year ago
Have to disagree with anyone who thinks Code West doesn't have the class to contend with this crop. He ran well against Oxbow & Normandy in Risen Star; simply didn't go on in the La. Derby. He defeated a sluggish field at Pimlico, that's for sure, but he won by six. I hope they wait for something down the road because my guess is Code West is going to be a strong horse. But if he's in the Belmont and Rosie is riding, he is work a look.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
Class? His last two were conditioned allowance races, lost on Derby day, won on Preakness day in a time two seconds slower than the splits in the Preakness.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Class is objective.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
You clearly meant to say "subjective".
B More than 1 year ago
Vyjack at a mile and a half?! Well, maybe if they run really slow.
Nicholas Heaven More than 1 year ago
Rudy pls dont force a spinter to go beyond 7 furlongs. Save him to match up with verrazano in the kingsbishop at saratoga. Point him to that race.
jttf More than 1 year ago
does baffert care about the health of his horses ? bodemeister wins arkansas derby, 3 weeks off, then runs 2nd in kentucky derby, 2 weeks off, runs 2nd in preakness, then is injured and retired. paynter runs 2nd in the derby trial, 3 weeks off, wins pimlico allowance race on preakness day, 3 weeks off, 2nd in the belmont, takes around 7 weeks off and then fights for his life. paynter ran a similar race that code west just won on preakness day. but, paynter ran almost 4 seconds faster at the same distance. a good caring horseman would give at least 5 weeks off for a lasix using male horse. 12 furlongs on dirt takes it toll on 3 year olds. that was union rags last race of his life.
Black More than 1 year ago
Paynter won the Haskell after the Belmont so you're wrong again . Give it up with the disinformation already .
jttf More than 1 year ago
bodemeister's racing career lasted 4 months and paynter's career so far has been 5 months. these were bafferts two best 3 year olds last year. dont blink.
Ioncal More than 1 year ago
We might be hearing from the 4 year old Paynter very soon
jttf More than 1 year ago
hasnt paynter had around 8 works this year ? a one year layoff and 8 works reminds me of baffert's training of mythical power. mythical power ran 2nd to quality road in the woodward and then later is dropped to a $12,500 claiming level. lemon drop kid horses perform better on synthetic and turf surfaces. they also perform better later on in their life. no lasix at two, is a good idea. lemon drop kid never had lasix at 2. his best offspring like, cosmonaut, citronade and kiss the kid did not use lasix at 2 either. why would anyone give baffert a lemon drop kid horse at the age of 2 ? he didnt start training richards kid until he was 4 years old. this is what a good consultant does, fits the horse where he belongs.
Biggar W More than 1 year ago
What are you saying? Is 8 works too many? Do you expect that Paynter will end up running in a $12,500 claiming level race? Do you think that lasix causes colitis. Do you think that lasix caused Bodemeister's injury I'm aware that you are against lasix at two and probably just against lasix. I'm just trying to follow the logic in your posts.
jttf More than 1 year ago
8 works is an unusual trainer pattern for a talented horse. do you think paynter should run again ? why do you think so many triple crown horses are getting sidelined or retired ? i do think running dehydrated horses (cramping) causes more injuries. i do think that regular lasix use at early ages stunts the growth of horses. dont you think baffert is pushing his horses too hard ? i do.
Big Jeff More than 1 year ago
Pete and Repeat And repeat again.. I think jttf"s send button is stuck, and it just keeps spitting out the same thing over and over.
Tom Mallios More than 1 year ago
when overanalyze worked for the belmont on may 27.does anyone know the name of the horse that worked inside of him.
Roger More than 1 year ago
Caixa Eletronica 7 yr old from Pletcher's barn.
Tom Mallios More than 1 year ago
thanks roger
JOHN More than 1 year ago
Heard it was Vyjack Police LOL
Gunner More than 1 year ago
As Bob B weights away, we should remember that his record in the TC races stands at something like: KD - 3, Preak - 5 and Bel -1. So the 12 furlongs of the Belmont might not be his strong suit. Regardless, it's similar to an Ad that has a relationship to a favorite movie.... It goes something like.... From the people that brought you the award winning "War Horse", comes the scintillating tale of love, deception, and things that don't pass the smell test!!! SEE>>> "Bomb Sniffing Dogs". Thrill to the sight of these Hounds from Hell rooting out evil in every corner that their noses lead them. Bask in the glow of our Diamond Dogs getting the treats they so richly deserve. Those that know marvel: "A cold nose up - I feel very strongly about this"." - Dave Barry "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog it's too dark to read. Go see this movie." - Groucho Marx "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - Raoul Duke. In a theater near you.... soon.