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Santa Anita: Baffert kept in loop as stable moves ahead
ARCADIA, Calif. – As much as things can be normal with the boss in a hospital 11 times zones away, life around trainer Bob Baffert’s stable has continued this week.
Chief assistant Jimmy Barnes has been in frequent contact with Baffert since the Hall of Fame trainer suffered a heart attack in Dubai on Monday morning. Barnes has overseen the stable’s Santa Anita team this week as the buildup to Saturday’s $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks and the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7 intensifies.
Baffert, Barnes said, has been kept fully aware of the stable’s developments.
“We text and talk on the phone,” Barnes said between sets of workers Wednesday morning. “It’s no different than usual. I let him know about everything and how they’re working.”
Barnes was at Sunland Park in New Mexico on Sunday when he received word that Baffert had suffered a heart attack.
“They told me don’t be alarmed but we had to take Bob to emergency care,” he recalled. “That’s before they knew what it was.”
The stable had mixed results at Sunland Park, winning the Sunland Park Oaks with Kentucky Oaks hopeful Princess Arabella and finishing seventh in the Sunland Park Derby with Castaway, who faded after a speed duel.
Barnes said the biggest decision he has made this week is managing two of the stable’s hopes for the Santa Anita Derby – Blueskiesnrainbows and Liaison. They were sent to Hollywood Park on Tuesday for workouts on that track’s synthetic surface after extensive rain struck at Santa Anita.
“We had to ship them over to Hollywood Park to stay on schedule after that big rain,” Barnes said. “You don’t want to wait 11 days between works. That was one of the decisions I had to make.”
On Saturday, Baffert has two of the five starters in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks – the favorite Eden’s Moon and the longshot Bella’s Fantasy.
Baffert could have as many as three starters in the Santa Anita Derby, which had eight probable as of Wednesday. The first four finishers of the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 10 – Creative Cause, Bodemeister, Midnight Transfer, and Liaison – will face Brother Francis, Blueskiesnrainbow, Baby Blake, and I’ll Have Another.
I’ll Have Another won the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes on Feb. 4, his only start this year.
The San Felipe Stakes was Bodemeister’s stakes debut for Baffert.
Barnes said that Bodemeister could be sent to Oaklawn Park for the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 14.
Holy Candy, a maiden race winner at Santa Anita on March 23, is a candidate for the Santa Anita Derby, but is more likely to start at Keeneland in the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes on April 14, trainer John Sadler said.
Midnight Transfer will be ridden by Mike Smith. Victor Espinoza rode Midnight Transfer in the San Felipe but is out until mid-April with a hairline fracture in his left hand suffered in a spill March 23.
Wednesday at Hollywood Park, Creative Cause worked six furlongs in 1:12.40, his second-to-last workout for the Santa Anita Derby.
“I’m going to blow him out a little next week and then he’ll be ready,” trainer Mike Harrington said.
Chew back as regular trainer after "Luck" cancellation
In the last few weeks, Matt Chew has gone from training more than 60 horses to 12.
Chew was one of the trainers of the horses used in racing scenes for the HBO series “Luck.” The program was canceled in mid-March after one of the horses used in the filming was euthanized after rearing over and striking its head on the ground in the stable area. The horse’s death was cited by HBO officials as a reason for canceling the series.
The abrupt end to filming has changed Chew’s life. He had a stable based at Santa Anita before filming began, continued to train his stable during filming, and has returned to his stable exclusively.
“I was getting a regular paycheck and now I’m back to being a regular trainer,” he said. “It was the first time I got a paycheck and had taxes taken out. Those bastards are greedy.
“It was an experience of a lifetime,” he said of the television series. “It was unfortunate the way it came to an end.”
Chew, 51, is hoping to expand his stable to “16 to 20 horses” in coming months.
On Friday, he starts the filly Deity in an allowance race on the hillside turf course. Imported from Britain last fall, Deity finished second in a similar race March 4, leading to the final sixteenth before losing by a half-length.
“I think she’ll run back well,” Chew said. “I don’t think she’ll bounce.”
Chew said Deity cost approximately $32,000 at a sale last fall, with an additional $13,000 needed to ship her to California.
Earlier this week, Chew picked up a souvenir from the defunct television show.
In his stable office, Chew had a red bulletin board propped against his desk that had been used in backstretch scenes for the trainer character, Turo Escalante.
Chew bought the bulletin board earlier this week at Santa Anita when stable and riding equipment used in the filming were being sold in a garage sale type setting in a parking lot adjacent to the racetrack. Prices were not high, and equipment was being sold at a solid clip Wednesday morning.
“It was a nice way for the horsemen to get something out of it,” Chew said. “They were buying stuff for 10 cents on the dollar.”
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