‘A Lot Of Confidence’: Eight Rings To Start 3-Year-Old Season In April 25 Bachelor Stakes

Three projected starters for upcoming stakes events, including two recent arrivals from Southern California, breezed over a fast track at Oaklawn Park on Friday morning.

Eight Rings, in company, recorded a 5-furlong bullet out of the gate (:59) for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who is pointing the Grade 1 winner for the $100,000 Bachelor Stakes at 6 furlongs April 25. Eight Rings, unraced since a sixth-place finish in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 1 at Santa Anita, breezed after the first surface renovation break under Martin Garcia, Baffert’s former go-to rider in Southern California who is riding regularly at Oaklawn for the first time this year.

Clockers had Eight Rings covering a half-mile in :46.60, 6 furlongs in 1:11.40 and galloping out 7 furlongs in 1:24.80. Eight Rings had a workmate in Hot Shot Kid, a 6-year-old multiple stakes winner for trainer Mac Robertson. Hot Shot Kid, Canterbury Park’s 2019 Horse of the Year, was credited with 6 furlongs out of the gate in 1:11.40.

“I heard we ended up working with a pretty good horse,” Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s traveling assistant, said after Eight Rings returned to the barn. “He hasn’t run since the Breeders’ Cup and California, we had some wet weather, so (Baffert) wasn’t able to work him before he left, so then this was our scheduled breeze. It’s not uncommon to see us go to the gate off a layoff to make sure we’re ready.”

Eight Rings had been poised for an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 2-year-old male after winning the $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes (G1) Sept. 27 at Santa Anita. The son of Empire Maker was purchased for $520,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Garcia, locked in a four-way battle for leading rider, has been getting on horses for Baffert since they began filtering in from Southern California. Garcia rode first-time starter Inshannity, another recent Southern California arrival for Baffert, to an April 10 debut victory.

“It helps to have Martin here,” Barnes said. “It’s been a big help. He knows our horses so well. He knows how Bob wants them worked. You go out there with a lot of confidence.”

Eight Rings and Grade 2 winner Venetian Harbor for trainer Richard Baltas were among the Southern California-based horses flown Tuesday to Arkansas.

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