Armagnac Makes Switch to Grass in G3 La Jolla Sunday

August 6, 2022

DEL MAR, Calif.— One of the things trainers love about Del Mar, aside from its great weather and being close to the beach, is the opportunity to train horses on the turf. Obviously, that’s a plus for those conditioners who have established turf horses, but it’s especially handy for those trainers who have wondered how their horse would handle the turf but don’t want to experiment in a race.

That’s how S F Racing, et al’s Armagnac wound up in Sunday’s Grade III La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar. After a run on the Derby trail this spring that included efforts in the Santa Anita Derby (4th) and the Preakness at Pimlico (7th), trainer Bob Baffert has decided to try the son of Quality Road on the lawn for the first time.

“It’s tough because at Santa Anita they won’t let you work it,” Baffert said, “but here they let you work on the turf. I gave him a little breeze on the turf the other day and the rider said he got over it well. We thought it might be a different option for him, there are so many turf races now in California.”

Armagnac broke his maiden second time out at Santa Anita in January and then took a leap into the deep end, running sixth of seven in the G2 San Felipe. He fared a little better next out, finishing fourth in the G1 Santa Anita Derby but the winner, Taiba, beat him by 12 lengths.

The colt stepped down into an entry-level allowance in May and won by four lengths giving Baffert the confidence to make the trip back to Maryland. Now he considers the Preakness a toss-out because Armagnac was coming back on two weeks rest. He says if the turf experiment works, he’ll have more options for the colt.

“If he runs well here (in the La Jolla) he can run in the (Del Mar) Derby. We’ll just give him a try on it; we can always go back to the dirt.”

Armagnac will have to deal with a proven commodity on the green in Perry and Ramona Bass’ Sumter, winner of three straight including the $100,000 Pasadena and $100,000 Singletary, both turf miles at Santa Anita earlier this year.

Trainer George Papaprodromou sends out Kretz Racing’s Cabo Spirit, a son of Pioneerof the Nile who ran a distant second to Messier in the G3 Robert Lewis at Santa Anita earlier this year and then a close second to War at Sea last out in the $100,000 Cinema.

“We gelded him since his last start,” Papaprodromou said, “and I think he’s a different horse now. He’s been training well and we’re looking forward to it.“

C R K Stables Stayincotai is one of the six entered in the mile and a sixteenth La Jolla. Trained by Peter Eurton, the colt made his U.S. debut a winning one on opening day at Del Mar, taking an entry-level allowance.

“I just hope I’m not firing back too quick with him,” Eurton said. “He looks like he’s maintained his energy. I didn’t know if I would get into the (Del Mar) Derby with him because we don’t have enough points or earnings so we chose to go here.”

Here’s the field for the G3 La Jolla from the rail with the jockeys: Armagnac (Florent Geroux); Stayincotai (Umberto Rispoli); Perfect Flight (Ramon Vasquez); Sumter (Mike Smith); Cabo Spirit (Joe Bravo) and Brit’s Wit (Declan Cannon).

Photo: Armagnac (Benoit Photo)

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