Baffert Ready For ‘Change Of Scenery’ As Del Mar Meet Kicks Off Friday

The Del Mar racing season, which starts Friday, represents “a breath of fresh air,” for Southern California Thoroughbred racing in 2020 in the opinion of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert,

“We needed a change of scenery – drastically,” Baffert, 67, said by phone Wednesday, anticipating his 32nd season here. Baffert and his fellow horsemen venture south following a Santa Anita winter/spring season interrupted and a Triple Crown Series turned inside out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baffert’s batch of 3-year-olds with supreme Kentucky Derby potential – judged even deeper than usual this year – had their numbers trimmed by injury and other circumstances during a spring of discontent. But with the arrival of summer, and the postponement of the Kentucky Derby from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in September, Baffert remains a strong candidate to win a sixth Run For The Roses.

Over the years here Baffert has gone from winning training titles (seven straight from 1997-2003) to focusing on stakes and especially showcasing stars in the 2-year-old (14 Futurity, 8 Debutante winners) and Handicap divisions (5 Pacific Classics).

More of the same would appear in store this summer. But Baffert said the cooler and fresher air here would feel even better if it were breathed – albeit through a mask – with the owners who provide him the stars of his stable. Like most tracks around the country, Del Mar’s season will operate, to begin at least, without spectators in the stands in accordance with protocols agreed upon with the San Diego County Board of Health and other governmental authorities.

A bevy of Baffert’s stars are already stabled at Del Mar with potential to run this summer.

Scheduled first is Maximum Security in the $150,000 Grade II San Diego Handicap on July 18. Maximum Security, transferred to Baffert’s care in March, was first under the wire in the 2019 Kentucky Derby before being disqualified. The New Year’s Day colt rebounded with victories in the Grade I Haskell Invitational and Cigar Mile in a three-win streak from July to December and was voted an Eclipse Award as the top 3-year-old of the year.

“He looks great, he shipped down from Santa Anita well and he’ll work this weekend,” Baffert said.

The San Diego Handicap is a traditional stepping stone to the TVG Pacific Classic, a race Baffert mentioned as a potential start for McKinzie, who shipped here from New York following a disappointing effort in the recent Met Mile at Belmont Park. The loss of two shoes during the race provides a major Met Mile explanation, Baffert said.

The rescheduling of the Kentucky Derby means that Del Mar will have a Derby prep race for the first time in history. That’s the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes on August 1. Baffert has Cezanne and Uncle Chuck, impressive recent winners at Santa Anita and Los Alamitos, here. “I’ll definitely run one,” Baffert said.

Never short on talented 2-year-olds, Baffert declined to single any out as Debutante or Futurity prospects at this time.

“It’s too early. I’m a little bit behind with them right now,” Baffert said.

The post Baffert Ready For ‘Change Of Scenery’ As Del Mar Meet Kicks Off Friday appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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