Cave Rock out on the track Wednesday. Coady Photography
Taiba to face older horses in Classic
Breeders’ Cup Notes/Edited
LEXINGTON, Ky.—With trainer Bob Baffert in town and watching from the frontside, Cave Rock, the 4-5 morning line favorite in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on galloped on the main track Wednesday, visited the gate and later schooled in the paddock.
Co-owned by longtime Baffert clients, Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Cave Rock is unbeaten in three starts with an average winning margin of 5 ½ lengths.
Baffert said the son of the late Arrogate has had some minor issues getting away from the gate during his short career.
“We stood on the gate. He needs it,” Baffert said. “When he gets in the gate he can get a little bit tight in the gate. He wants to sit down a little bit. He would like to lean up and touch the gate. He was fine.”
Juan Hernandez, who has ridden the colt in his three races, will be up when Cave Rock leaves from Post 3 in the Juvenile on Friday.
Baffert talks Schooling Horses with Past The Wire
Zedan Racing Stables Inc.’s Breeders’ Cup Classic contender Taiba had a busy Wednesday morning at Keeneland. The chestnut Gun Runner colt galloped on the main track shortly after it reopened at 8 a.m. and schooled in the paddock at 10:30.
Baffert will face older horses for the first time in the Classic. The race is headlined by the unbeaten John Sadler-trained Fightline, who was rated at 3-5 on the morning line. Taiba and jockey Mike Smith drew the rail and are 8-1 on the morning line.
Baffert is based at Santa Anita Park and said he has paid close attention as Flightline has emerged as the leading horse in the country. He was so impressed, he said, that he decided to skip the Classic and prepared Juddmonte’s Laurel River for the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (G1).
“I love watching him work. I’m out there and I’ve seen all of his works,” Baffert said. “John and I sit up there in the same area, and we watch the way he does everything. He’s very aggressive. Horses like that are very easy to get ready.”
Baffert has a record four wins in the Classic. He put together a back-to-back-to-back run starting with Bayern in 2014. At Keeneland in 2015, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah concluded his brilliant career with an impressive victory. Arrogate completed the hat trick in 2016 and Authentic picked up the fourth Baffert win in 2020. This year, Baffert finds himself sending out an accomplished horse against a superstar.
“I know how people felt when they ran against American Pharoah,” Baffert said. “I know what they felt like because he’s Pharoah at 4. He just moves like him. He’s an extraordinary horse. He just moves over the ground and when he takes off, he just takes off. The thing is that the only way a horse like that gets beat is just racing luck. Racing luck can get them all beat.”
However, Baffert said he was not predicting Taiba was poised to spring an upset against Flightline.
“Coming in here it’s like I’m not thinking that I might go up there…” he said, leaving a few words unspoken and setting up the rest of his thought. “Some of these horses I feel I have a really good chance of winning with, but him with him I’m just thinking if I could run second or third.”
In his most recent start, Taiba won the Pennsylvania Derby by 3 lengths on Sept. 24. He has been most effective when he has been able to sit a stalking trip and take on the competition in the stretch.
“He ended up in the one-hole, but he probably would have ended up in the inside anyway,” Baffert said. “Taiba, he breaks really well. He breaks like he’s going to go to the lead and then all of a sudden, he sort of falls back. He likes to run at a target, and I just hope he can see his target.”