09/29/2016 1:16PM

Klimt keeps getting better entering two-turn debut in FrontRunner

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Benoit & Associates
Klimt will make his two-turn debut in the 1 1/16-mile FrontRunner Stakes for 2-year-olds.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Every time Klimt has raced, he has gone a little bit farther and raced a little bit faster. On Saturday, he’ll stretch out to 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 1, $300,000 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita, and if the arrow continues to point upward, he will secure his position as the best 2-year-old in California, if not the country.

Yet while Klimt has shown no signs that racing two turns will be a hurdle, and his pedigree suggests he’ll benefit by the added distance, his trainer, Bob Baffert, is well aware that many can’t handle the transition.

“You never know for sure,” Baffert said. “You just hope they don’t hit that invisible wall.”

Klimt has made sure and steady progress. After losing his debut going five furlongs, he has won at 5 1/2 furlongs, 6 1/2 furlongs, and, most recently, seven furlongs when capturing the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity.

Straight Fire, second in the Futurity, looks like the main rival to Klimt, and a change in riders is likely to result in a change of tactics that could prove pivotal. Straight Fire went way too fast for the first half-mile of the Del Mar Futurity – in which Klimt had a perfect, stalking trip – and if he can ration that speed, he could be very, very dangerous.

Five others are entered in the FrontRunner, which rewards the winner with a fees-paid berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5 through the Win and You’re In program. The BC Juvenile is also at Santa Anita, also at 1 1/16 miles, making the FrontRunner perhaps the most significant of all the preps.

:: SANTA ANITA: Get PPs, watch video previews of Saturday's card

The FrontRunner goes as race 6 on the 11-race card and thus kicks off the pick six.

FrontRunner, Race 6

KEY CONTENDERS

Klimt, by Quality Road

Last 3 Beyers: 94-82-75

◗ His jockey, Rafael Bejarano, is confident that Klimt will have no problem stretching out.

“Every time after he’s run, he’s still been really fresh, galloped out well,” said Bejarano, who has been aboard Klimt for all his starts.

Straight Fire, by Dominus

Last 3 Beyers: 85-98-87

◗ His Del Mar Futurity was better than it looked, as he was pressured into a second quarter of 22.05 seconds following an opening quarter of 22.33 seconds. Flavien Prat takes over for the first time.

Midnight Pleasure, by Midnight Lute

Last 2 Beyers: 81-65

◗ He faded to third in the Del Mar Futurity behind Klimt and Straight Fire after pressing the pace, but he was more effective when stalking in his winning debut.

Gormley, by Malibu Moon

First Beyer: 64

◗ He received only a moderate figure for his winning debut, but trainer John Shirreffs is not known for having his horses cranked up first time out, so he should improve off that run, but he’ll need to while going from a maiden sprint win straight into a two-turn, Grade 1 stakes.

“He had worked like he’d run really well,” Shirreffs said Thursday at Santa Anita. “He’s been aggressive in his training. I don’t think two turns will be an issue for him, but it’s always a test when they have to step up in class.”