08/13/2016 8:30PM

Klimt gives Baffert a record eighth Best Pal Stakes victory

Benoit & Associates
Klimt and jockey Rafael Bejarano win the Best Pal Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths.

DEL MAR, Calif. – With a route pedigree, everything Klimt is doing early in his career while sprinting seems like a bonus. He’s not a horse who appears one to be painted into a corner.

After losing his debut, Klimt has gotten the hang of this racing game. He defeated maidens in his second start, and on Saturday at Del Mar, he won the Grade 2, $200,345 Best Pal Stakes to earn a berth in the Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Futurity on closing day, Sept. 5.

Klimt ($4), the favorite, had an easy trip from post No. 5 in the field of six under Rafael Bejarano. He broke a half-step slowly, then took up a position outside of Big League, who broke from the outside and went immediately for the lead. Those two were joined briefly by Drafted early on the far turn, but he faltered, and then Klimt put away Big League through the lane to win by a comfortable 2 3/4 lengths.

Big League was easily second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Thirstforlife. Rinse and Repeat was fourth and was followed by Secret House and Drafted.

Klimt covered 6 1/2 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:16.11.

“He’s always shown he’s a horse who wants to go further,” said Bob Baffert, who trains Klimt for owner Kaleem Shah. “He’s shown a lot of gears. He wants to go long.”

Klimt, by Quality Road, was purchased by Shah at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. auction in March for $435,000. Shah named him for the late Austrian painter Gustav Klimt.

Interestingly, this was the second straight year the Best Pal was won by a horse named for someone named Gustav. Last year’s winner was Nyquist – named for hockey player Gustav Nyquist – who subsequently won the Del Mar Futurity and, of course, this year’s Kentucky Derby.

Klimt finished fourth in his debut June 25 at Santa Anita in a five-furlong race that produced several next-out winners, him among them, for he beat maidens at Santa Anita going 5 1/2 furlongs on July 10. The Best Pal was his first start since then.

Klimt gave Bejarano his third win on the card. For Baffert, the win was more notable, for this was his record eighth victory in the Best Pal, all since 1998. Quite the masterpiece.