06/10/2017 1:05PM

West Coast impresses in Easy Goer Stakes win

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Barbara D. Livingston
West Coast and jockey Mike Smith win the Easy Goer Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths.

ELMONT, N.Y. – With four favorites on the Belmont Stakes card Saturday, trainer Bob Baffert was happy to get a win in the books with his first starter of the day, West Coast, who scored an emphatic victory in the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes, a 1 1/6-mile race for 3-year-olds.

"A doughnut for Bob," Baffert said in jest after the race, which had the smallest purse of any of the events he will be involved in at Belmont on Saturday.

Baffert's other scheduled starters were Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman in the Grade 1 Acorn, American Anthem in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens, and Mor Spirit in the Grade 1 Met Mile.

West Coast got pinched back at the start, but that didn't really hurt his chances as Wicked Macho, Local Hero, and Outplay cut out a rapid pace of 22.79 seconds, 45.62, and 1:10.09. West Coast, with Mike Smith up, began to advance four wide on the far turn, took command entering the stretch and pulled away to win by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:41.50.

"I got squeezed at the start, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because they were going way too quick, and I might have got caught up into it," Smith said.

A son of Flatter owned by Gary and Mary West, West Coast paid $5.70 as the favorite in the nine-horse field.

 

Baffert had originally planned to run West Coast in the Belmont Stakes, but a recent optional-claiming victory over older rivals at Santa Anita was not up to Baffert's expectations, and he rerouted him to the shorter Easy Goer around one turn.

Baffert said the victory opened up new possibilities for West Coast.

"That's the race I wanted to see from him last time," Baffert said. "Now he is ready to take on top horses. He could go to Monmouth or some of the other derbies around the country."

West Coast is now 3 for 5 with earnings of $203,800.

You're to Blame rallied from far back to be second, two lengths ahead of third-place finisher Outplay. Wicked Macho and Local Hero, tired to finish fifth and sixth.

Sonic Mule gave way after five furlongs, was eased in the stretch, but walked off under his own power.