11/10/2011 4:42PM

Hollywood: Baffert's Breeders' Cup mostly disappointing


ARCADIA, Calif. – Breeders’ Cup 2011 was largely forgettable for trainer Bob Baffert, whose nine starters produced a Juvenile Sprint win by odds-on Secret Circle and a runner-up finish by 14-1 outsider Game On Dude in the Classic. They were the only Baffert runners to hit the board in the Breeders’ Cup.

Based on odds, expectations for most Baffert runners were modest. The notable exception was Plum Pretty, fifth as the 2.20-1 second favorite in the Ladies’ Classic.

Plum Pretty was “one of my biggest disappointments,” Baffert said, regarding her off-the-board finish. Although she made an easy lead setting slow fractions, Plum Pretty offered little resistance the final furlong.

“That track was so demanding for her, she couldn’t handle that deep track,” Baffert said. “She needs ‘fast’. Saratoga was the same thing.”

Plum Pretty finished a distant fourth in the Alabama at Saratoga. Baffert said Plum Pretty would remain in training in 2012 and probably will return later in the Santa Anita winter meet.

Other disappointments for Baffert were Euroears, who finished last of nine in the BC Sprint at 5-1, and The Factor, who finished eighth in the BC Dirt Mile at 7-1.

“Euroears, he couldn’t stand up in that stuff,” Baffert said. “The Factor, he was having a little trouble with that track.”

While he did not use track condition as the only excuse, Baffert said, “I was disappointed in the maintenance of the main track,” he said. “They could have done a better job there.”

He added a qualifier. “When you hear that they didn’t get a hold of the track, it means they didn’t fire. The Factor, he didn’t fire. Drill, he didn’t fire. If they fire, they’ll get a hold of the track. We like to use that as an excuse, but they didn’t fire for some reason.”

Baffert sent The Factor to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital for a full examination after the race.

“It was a checkup, just in case,” Baffert said. “He checked out fine. I’ll freshen him up. There’s a good chance he could run in the Malibu.”

Irrefutable (ninth in the Dirt Mile) and Irish Gypsy (eighth in Filly & Mare Sprint) were outsiders. Game on Dude outran expectations, finishing second at 14.20-1.

Game On Dude will return at Santa Anita, where early this year he scored a 14.80-1 upset in the Santa Anita Handicap. “We’ll run him (once), and then run him in the Santa Anita Handicap,” Baffert said.

Baffert said Game On Dude will have one key change to his summer campaign.

“I probably won’t run him at Del Mar, he hates that track,” Baffert said.

The gelding’s only off-the-board finish in 2011 was his fourth-place finish in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

As for Secret Circle, some second-guessed the strategy employed by jockey Rafael Bejarano. He sent Secret Circle into a wicked pace duel – the opening quarter-mile in 20.96 seconds and a half-mile in 44.55 seconds.

Baffert said Bejarano was riding to instructions.

“I wanted him up there,” he said. “I told him, ‘Don’t [mess] around. I didn’t think they would go that fast. That is one of the best 2-year-old performances I have ever seen. And he was doing this,” Baffert said, motioning that Secret Circle’s ears were twitching.

“I’m going to stretch him out,” Baffert said. “I don’t know where, but I’m going to stretch him out.”

Drill, 10th at 9-1 in the Juvenile, will add blinkers again next out. Drill wore blinkers for two wins in summer, including the Del Mar Futurity, and a runner-up finish at Santa Anita in the Norfolk.

“I’m going to put the blinkers back on him,” Baffert said. “I should have left the blinkers on. He’s got some things in his head. He saw the dirt and the horses and it scared the hell out of him. It was a throw-out. He’ll run again this year.” Drill could ship to Delta Downs.

Candrea, 11th after setting the pace in the BC Juvenile Fillies, will add blinkers for the first time.

“She acts really green,” Baffert said. “I don’t know if she wants to go two turns. Delta Downs is $500,000, so I might do that.”

Baffert entered Liaison in the $100,000 Real Quiet on Saturday at Hollywood Park. So Brilliant will run Nov. 24 in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue. Prayer for Relief will ship to Churchill Downs for the Clark Handicap.

Smith entered BC day confident

News that Classic winner Drosselmeyer could race in 2012 was music to jockey Mike Smith’s ears. Smith won two Breeders’ Cup races, aboard Amazombie in the Sprint and Drosselmeyer in the Classic.

“If they’re training good, I don’t care what their odds are, you’ve got a shot,” Smith said. “I knew [Drosselmeyer] broke his maiden there so impressive, and [private clocker] Gary Young called me a week before and said, ‘You won’t believe how this horse is training.’ ”

As for Amazombie, Smith knew first hand that he would be fine.

“I galloped him, and, man, he skipped over it,” Smith said.

Smith also rode Mr. Commons to a fifth-place finish in the Mile.

“It was a roughly run race,” he said. “On the first turn, everyone got cremated. We got hit hard. It was a chain reaction. It was a mess for about three jumps. He still got up and run fifth against the best in the world.

“He’s got so much room to improve,” Smith said. “I love how he’s coming into next year.”

Mr. Commons is a 3-year-old.