Baffert ‘Goes To The Bench’ For SA Derby; To Send Trio Of Contenders

With superstar starter Mastery sidelined, Bob Baffert will go to his bench in quest of victory in the $1 million, Grade I Santa Anita Derby a week from Saturday, April 8.

The Hall of Fame trainer, winner of the mile and an eighth classic a record seven times, plans to enter American Anthem, Reach the World and West Coast in the 80th edition of the West Coast's major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

Baffert's previous winners were Cavonnier (1996), Indian Charlie (1998), General Challenge (1999), Point Given (2001), Pioneerof the Nile (2009), Midnite Interlude (2011) and Dortmund (2015).

“Right now, I'm looking at possibly three,” Baffert said before double-timing it to supervise a work by Reach the World Thursday morning.

“There are no allowance races to really run them back in, and even though West Coast ran nice but not real fast the other day (breaking his maiden by 3 ¼ lengths going 1 1/16 miles in 1:44 March 12), if we run him here and he wins, finishes second, or whatever, that doesn't necessarily mean we'd run him back in the (Kentucky) Derby.”

Reach the World worked five furlongs in company with American Cleopatra, going 59.80 under Martin Garcia, while American Cleopatra was clocked in 1:00.60.

With a large field in the works, the Santa Anita Derby can accommodate as many as 14 starters. There were 10 when Pioneerof the Nile won under the late Garrett Gomez; 11 when Tiago won under Mike Smith in 2007; and 21 in 1937 when Fairy Hill won under Mel Peters.

Doug O'Neill plans to enter four horses, meaning he and Baffert would monopolize the field, likely with more than half the starters. O'Neill won the race back-to-back in 2012 and 2013 with I'll Have Another and Goldencents.

Probable for the Santa Anita Derby: American Anthem, no rider; Battle of Midway, Corey Nakatani; Gormley, Victor Espinoza; Iliad, Flavien Prat; Kimbear, Joe Talamo; Midnight Pleasure, no rider; Milton Freewater, Tiago Pereira; Reach the World, no rider; So Conflated, Mario Gutierrez; Term of Art, Tyler Baze; and West Coast, no rider.

Horse of the World Arrogate, meanwhile, was en route to California Thursday from Dubai where he won the $10 million World Cup last Saturday.

“He is in the air right now on his way home,” Baffert said around 8:30 Thursday morning. “He gets in LA around threeish, then he'll be in quarantine for a couple days and probably be here Saturday afternoon.”

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