Richard Baltas hopes Taishan wins his first stakes when he runs in next Sunday’s Grade II Twilight Derby for three-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
Taishan, a Candy Ride colt, was second last out in the Grade II American Turf at Churchill Downs Sept. 5, losing by only a half-length in the 1 1/16-mile turf race, despite being bothered at the start.
“It was his first time on grass and it was a very good effort,” Baltas said of the Kentucky-bred bay owned by Calvin Nguyen and Joey Tran. “It was a half-million dollar race and there was a lot of speed, so I think it kind of set up for him.
“That being said, I think he was always meant to be on the grass. He ran against some tough horses on dirt at Oaklawn in Nadal (winner of the Grade I Arkansas Derby on July 8).
“Candy Rides are pretty versatile but I think they prefer the turf.”
Taishan’s first three races were in Southern California, but his last seven included stops at Oaklawn Park, Indiana and Churchill Downs.
Florent Giroux, who rode Taishan in the American Derby, was impressed with his performance.
“They wanted me to get a position (near the lead) but they were rolling in front so we went to Plan B,” the Frenchman said after the race. “I set off inside nicely and made one run. He ran a big race, first time on grass. He handled it perfectly.
“He’s a nice horse. He’d been working very well and I’m very happy with the way he ran.”
Taishan was a distant fourth in the Grade III Sham Stakes at a mile on dirt at Santa Anita Jan. 4 behind a horse named Authentic, who would go on to win the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5.
Anyway it shakes out, the Twilight Derby has the look of a very contentious race.
Baltas has three nominated to the Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes on Saturday but is likely to enter two, Going to Vegas with Mario Gutierrez and Nasty with Ricardo Gonzalez.
Nasty, a daughter of Street Sense owned by Larry, Nanci and Jaime Roth who campaign as LNJ Foxwoods, has been running back east and will make her West Coast debut for Baltas in the Autumn Miss.
Her two victories came at Indiana Grand in Shelbyville, Indiana, where she had been trained by Brad Cox.