BAFFERT COMING WITH BOTH BARRELLS
For some, Thanksgiving is partly about the hunt. Perched in prime hunting time, the fourth Saturday in November can offer up a great chance at glory. In the Thoroughbred game, Bob Baffert is tracking a record setting grade 1 win during this holiday weekend…and he’s bringing both barrels for a black Friday hunt.
Back when I was a kid, one of my hunting mentors was a man named Onzie Brewer. My great uncle couldn’t read or write, but man was he ever wise in the ways of the world. Sound piece of advice he once gave was simple, if you want to make sure you get the game, give it both barrels. A quick look at the prospective 141st Clark Handicap contestants tells us the hall of fame trainer may have received some similar advice at some point. The California conditioner is planning to start 2014 Clark winner Hoppertunity and is also bringing three-year old powerhouse Dortmund to Louisville Sounds like a Mossberg to me.
The Clark Handicap has long been considered one of the top races of the “fall” season. As one of the signature races run at Churchill Downs every year, this mile and an eighth journey is steeped in history. Baffert will have a chance to write his name in the books as the winningest trainer in the history of this grade 1 race. Currently tied with old time Kentucky Derby hero Ben Jones (6 wins on the first Saturday in May) with 3 trips to the Clark winner’s circle, Baffert seems to be giving himself a good shot at passing a legend of the game. Maybe like a double barrel shot.
Hoppertunity has proven to be a horse that always has a chance. Since winning the Clark last November, this 4-year old son of Any Given Saturday has only 1 other win, but he has 3 seconds, 2 thirds, and 2 fourths, all in graded stakes company. He has been to war and fought every time. Dortmund was the “other” three-year old in the Baffert barn this year. Seven wins in nine lifetime starts means Big Brown’s boy can pick them up and put them down. Full of front-running muscle, he is way more than just impressive physically.
Baffert is coming in with a 12 gauge, but the race will be anything but a sitting duck. Prospective starters Race Day and Protonico are prime Todd Pletcher trained players that would allow the New York based Pletcher to tie Baffert and Jones in Cark wins. Mr. Z gives D. Wayne Lukas a chance to equal Jones and Baffert with three wins and the strong finishing Effinex looks to build off a runner-up finish to American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Other to-be-determined entrants could also dodge the buckshot.
Obviously eclipsing Jones in Clark wins is not the main objective for coming loaded. I am sure the veteran trainer would much prefer eclipsing Plain Ben in another Churchill wins category. Nevertheless, a grade 1 is a grade 1 and winning is always good. Will the shot hit the spot?…There was always food on Uncle Onzie’s table. First post on November 27 at Churchill Downs is 12:40.