09/11/2011 11:49AM

Breeders' Cup Classic becomes Prayer for Relief's major target

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Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges Jr.
Prayer for Relief earned his second consecutive 98 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in Saturday's Super Derby at Louisiana Downs.

BOSSIER CITY, La.- Trainer Bob Baffert said on Sunday morning that Prayer for Relief has put himself in position for a start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic after winning his third consecutive graded stakes in the Super Derby on Saturday. The horse wired the field in the Grade 2, $500,000 race at Louisiana Downs, and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 98. The number equaled the career-best figure he had put up one start earlier in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby.

Prayer for Relief will return to Santa Anita on Tuesday, said Baffert. From there, he will decide the next course of action for the horse, whose major objective is now the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, the 1 1/4-mile race to be run at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.

“Distance is not a problem,” said Baffert, who trains Prayer for Relief for Zayat Stables.  

Prayer for Relief also can boast being perfect on dirt. He won the Grade 3 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows in his first dirt start in June, and backed the effort up in the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Racetrack in August. Prayer for Relief had then come under consideration for the Grade 1 Travers, but when he did not work to Baffert’s satisfaction over the Saratoga track the horse was sent back home to Southern California.

“I think when he heard the ocean he woke up,” said Baffert.

Baffert said Prayer for Relief worked so well at Del Mar, in fact, that instead of awaiting the Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 24, plans were made to target the Super Derby. He said he will again let the horse’s training dictate his schedule up to the Breeders’ Cup.

“His works tip me off when to run,” said Baffert.

Prayer for Relief is an excellent tout. He was right on target for the Super Derby, rebuffing bids from two rivals inside the final furlong before going on to a 2 1/2-length win under regular rider Rafael Bejarano.

“We thought we’d keep him up close, but when they broke and nobody wanted the lead we just took it,” Baffert said. “It was a good race for him. He didn’t have to run very hard.”

Prayer for Relief on Sunday morning was bright-eyed and at home at Louisiana Downs, munching on hay on the same backstretch his dam, Sparklin Lil, once lived on when she raced for her breeder, the late John Franks. She was a local stakes winner for the Eclipse Award-winning horseman, whose home track was Louisiana Downs.

Prayer for Relief is a son of the A.P. Indy stallion Jump Start. He was bred in Kentucky by G.R. Aschinger.

Louisiana Downs ran the Super Derby about two weeks earlier than usual this year, and the track is inclined to run the race around the same date in 2012 after drawing a competitive, nine-horse field, said Trent McIntosh, the director of operations for Louisiana Downs. 

There have been four Super Derby starters who captured the Breeders’ Cup Classic the same year as their success in Bossier City: Sunday Silence in 1989, runner-up Unbridled in 1990, runner-up Concern in 1994, and Tiznow in 2000.