10/27/2008 12:00AM

Will Midshipman stay with Baffert?


ARCADIA, Calif. - Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum has made no secret about his desire to win the Kentucky Derby with a horse from Dubai, the country that he rules. That's why it is highly likely, though not official, that Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Midshipman will be headed to Dubai in the coming weeks.

As of Monday, however, Midshipman was still in the Santa Anita barn of Bob Baffert, who hopes his status as a three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer has an impact on Sheikh Mohammed.

"Right now I'm just training him like I'm going to keep him until something happens,'' Baffert said. "They have to decide what they're going to do. Sheikh Mohammed, I've always gotten along well with him. He's asked what does it take to get to the Derby. Hopefully, it's all fate that we finally hooked up. . . . If he respects my ability of getting to the Derby, [keeping him] should be an option.''

Midshipman became the property of Darley after Sheikh Mohammed purchased virtually all the racing related assets of Robert and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stable a few weeks ago. Stonerside, which bred Midshipman, owned him for his first three starts. If Midshipman does go to Dubai, he will most likely be transferred to Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation, and transferred to trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

Baffert said Midshipman, who earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory, came out of the race stronger than he had any of his three prior races.

"I haven't had a 2-year-old like that in years that had a legitimate chance to move on and think about the classics,'' Baffert said Monday. "He's still learning, he's going to improve so much more. With his stride, I can't see dirt being a problem for him at all. He's very handy, he's got speed, he's got tactical speed.''

Cocoa Beach, Music Note in limbo

Cocoa Beach and Music Note, the second- and third-place finishers behind Zenyatta in last Friday's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, remained in Southern California awaiting a decision by Sheikh Mohammed on their future. Both ran under Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin banner.

"No decision's been made on what's going to happen with them,'' said assistant trainer Rick Mettee, who oversaw the training of both fillies when they were in New York. "They will stay in California for at least the time being.''

For the past two winters, Mettee has overseen a Godolphin string at Payson Park, a training center in Florida. Mettee said Godolphin will not maintain a Florida string this year, and that he is likely headed to Dubai at the end of November.

Sheikh Mohammed does have a barn at Keeneland where he keeps horses that are on an extended break.- David Grening

Ginger Punch retired

Ginger Punch, the Eclipse Award-winning older filly or mare in 2007, has been retired after finishing sixth of eight in the Ladies' Classic, trainer Bobby Frankel said Monday.

Ginger Punch, 5, won the Ladies' Classic the previous year at Monmouth Park, when it was named the Distaff. She won 12 of 22 lifetime starts, including six Grade 1 races, and earned more than $3 million.

Frankel said Ginger Punch would remain in California for another week, then be sent to Kentucky to the farm of Frank Stronach, who bred and owns Ginger Punch. Frankel did not know to which stallion Ginger Punch would be bred next year.

Ginger Punch was one of Frankel's favorite horses, ranking up there with Sightseek.

Asked if he was going to miss her, Frankel said, "For sure."

- Jay Privman

Albertus Maximus will race next year

Albertus Maximus, the winner of the BC Dirt Mile, will remain in training next year at age 5, said Vladimir Cerin, who trains Albertus Maximus for Brandon and Marianne Chase.

"Mr. and Mrs. Chase asked me to plan for a campaign for next year," Cerin said Monday. "What we still need to figure out is whether he will race exclusively in this country, and take the Santa Anita Handicap-Hollywood Gold Cup route, or point for Dubai."

Cerin said Albertus Maximus would not race again in 2008. He will spend time recuperating at small farm Cerin has near Santa Anita. The facility has a hyperbaric chamber.

"He's going to go to the hyperbaric chamber for a couple of weeks, get some oxygen and some grazing," said Cerin, who said he thought Albertus Maximus still had room for improvement.

"He's only had 15 races," Cerin said. "He's maturing."

- Jay Privman

Plans for Midnight Lute uncertain

For the second year in a row, Midnight Lute wowed the crowd at the Breeders' Cup, becoming the first horse to win the Sprint twice with his explosive last-to-first victory at Santa Anita on Saturday. Whether Midnight Lute will get the chance to wow them again is a question that remained unanswered as of Monday.

Trainer Bob Baffert said Midnight Lute came out of the Sprint in great shape but that no decision has been made on whether he might race again or be retired to stud next season, as co-owner Mike Pegram hinted at Saturday's post-race press conference. Baffert said he and the owners would have to get together before making any decision on Midnight Lute's future.

Midnight Lute is certainly fresh enough to compete again this season or next. The Sprint was only his second start in 2008 and third since he won the 2007 edition at Monmouth Park. A 5-year-old son of Real Quiet who has started just 13 times in his career, Midnight Lute missed most of the year due to a hock injury before finally launching his 2008 campaign in the Pat O'Brien Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 24. He was then forced to bypass a scheduled prep for the Sprint in the Grade 1 Ancient Title after coming out of the O'Brien with a severe quarter crack on his left front foot.

"I wish he hadn't gotten hurt and I'd had him for the whole year," said Baffert. "I was just lucky to have him ready for this. And after witnessing his performance I guess everybody who kept asking me if I was thinking about running Indian Blessing in the Sprint knows why I didn't even consider it. He's really special, an amazing animal, a physical specimen. I've been researching his pedigree and there's Dr. Fager all over that thing. He's just a throwback."

As for next season, Mike Pegram, who owns Midnight Lute in partnership with Karl Watson and Paul Weitman commented, "None of our mares have been booked this year, so I think Midnight Lute will be happy in the support he's going to get in the stud barn."

"I would like to see him race until he's 10," said Baffert. "But it's not my call."- Mike Welsch

Conduit could defend Turf title in 2009

Conduit gave English trainer Michael Stoute a record third win in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Saturday. The same team could be back again next year for the BC Turf at Santa Anita.

"The plan is to keep this fellow in training for next year," Stoute said.

Judging from the success the European travelers had in the BC Turf, and in the Breeders' Cup overall, they could have more company from overseas.

Conduit rallied from fourth in the final furlong to catch Eagle Mountain and win by 1 1/2 lengths. Eagle Mountain was a stakes winner in England earlier this month. The best finish by an American-trained horse was the third-place finish by New York invader Dancing Forever.

Ridden by Ryan Moore, Conduit ($13.60) ran 1 1/2 miles on turf in 2:23.42, a stakes record.

"He keeps getting better and that's the exciting thing about this horse," Stoute said.

Conduit, 3, was already a Group 1 winner before the BC Turf, having won England's longest classic race for 3-year-olds, the Group 1 St. Leger at Doncaster over 1 11/16 miles on Sept. 13.

Back in the spring, Conduit won a $98,500 handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf by six lengths on the undercard of the English Derby at Epsom. He followed that with a second in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

"I think he's progressed a lot since Derby Day," Stoute said.

Conduit was Stoute's first BC Turf winner since Kalanisi at Churchill Downs in 2000. His first came with Pilsudski at Woodbine in 1996.

Conduit, owned by breeder Peter Reynolds's Ballymacoll Stud of Ireland, and has won 5 of 9 starts and $2,487,823. The Ballymacoll-owned Tartan Bearer finished second in the English Derby in June.

"We thought we had the highlight when Tartan Bearer just got touched off on the Derby," Reynolds said. "Then this guy comes along."

- Steve Andersen

Matriarch next for Precious Kitten

Precious Kitten, fourth against males in the Breeders' Cup Mile on Saturday, will defend her title in the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park on Nov. 30, trainer Bobby Frankel said.

Owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson's Lael Stables, Precious Kitten finished 3 3/4 lengths behind the brilliant French 3-year-old filly Goldikova in the BC Mile. Precious Kitten was fifth early and led briefly in the stretch but could not sustain the bid.

The $500,000 Matriarch Stakes is run over a mile on turf for fillies and mares.

"She ran good enough to run in the Matriarch," Frankel said.

As for 2009, Frankel said plans are unclear. Precious Kitten has won 8 of 24 starts and $1,812,543.

"She's 5, and I haven't talked to them about it," he said, referring to the owners' plans for the mare.

The Frankel-trained Champs Elysees finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, closing from last of 12 to finish 6 1/4 lengths behind Raven's Pass.

Frankel said Sunday that Champs Elysees could be tried on a synthetic surface again in 2009. Champs Elysees was making his second start on a synthetic track, having finished third in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap here last March.

"We took a shot and he didn't get beat far," Frankel said. "I liked his race. If he stays in training, maybe we'll try him again."

- Steve Andersen

Well Armed, Colonel John will race again

Well Armed, who finished ninth of 12 in the Dirt Mile as the 6-5 favorite, came out of the race fine, trainer Eoin Harty said.

"He couldn't keep up with a very fast pace," Harty said. "He'll go back to the track Wednesday, and we'll come up with a game plan from there."

Well Armed is a gelding, so he will continue to race.

Harty said Colonel John, who was sixth in the BC Classic on Saturday, will race in 2009, with his first major goal the Strub Series, exclusively for 4-year-olds of 2009, at Santa Anita's main winter meeting.

"That seems like a natural progression. He should prove to be a nice 4-year-old next year," Harty said. "I thought he ran a credible race on Saturday. He gave us a thrill at the top of the stretch."

- Jay Privman

O'Neill a late scratch due to chicken pox

Juvenile runner-up Square Eddie will not run any more this year, owner Paul Reddam said. While Reddam was happy with his colt's performance, he feels that since the horse has done so much shipping already this year, it's best to give him the conventional time off before returning early next year.

"If he were to come back in the CashCall Futurity you might push him beyond his limits where he won't be ready for the Kentucky Derby,'' Reddam said. "We'll do the conventional thing and give him some time off.''

Reddam thought there may have been a problem with Square Eddie on Saturday morning when his trainer, Doug O'Neill, called him and didn't start the conversation with his usual greeting of "everything's great.''

Turns out, everything was great with the horse, just not the trainer. O'Neill went to the hospital Friday night where he was diagnosed with chicken pox, a highly infectious illness usually seen in children.

O'Neill, who also ran five other horses on the card, is not allowed to be at his barn for at least one week, Reddam said.

"He said 'They put me in a nice room with a TV, but it wasn't until later that I realized they had quarantined me,' '' Reddam recalled O'Neill telling him. "Talk about bad timing; you train all year for the Breeders' Cup then you have to miss it. He's home now, but he can't come to the barn.''- David Grening