Wynstock Will Try To Do What His Father Couldn’t

February 1, 2024

Wynstock breaks his maiden Oct. 15 at Santa Anita (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— From the first crop of Solomini, Wynstock is among the favorites for the $800,000 G3-Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds Saturday at Oaklawn, a 1 1/16-mile race postponed one week because of winter weather. The Southwest is Oaklawn’s second Kentucky Derby points race, a series that continues with the $1.25 million G2-Rebel Stakes Feb. 24 and $1.5 million G1-Arkansas Derby March 30.

Solomini, in 2018, ran second in the Rebel and third in the Arkansas Derby for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, also trains Wynstock, a New York-bred who makes his 3-year-old debut and first start outside California in the Southwest. Baffert has won the Southwest two consecutive years and a record six times overall.

“He reminds me a little bit of Solomini,” Baffert said Monday afternoon. “Sort of lazy in the mornings, if you watch him train. He just does what he has to do, but he’s a big, strong colt. He’s bigger than Solomini. He’s a bigger, stronger colt than his sire.”

Wynstock was purchased last April for $700,000 – almost 10 times higher than Solomini’s 2024 stud fee – at the OBS Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training. Wynstock zipped an eighth of a mile in :9 4/5 in his under-tack preview workout, which Baffert said contributed to the colt’s hefty sales price. Solomini stands for $7,500 at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

“At the time, taking a big chance on a freshman sire,” Baffert said. “You never know what they’re going to do, but the Solominis seem like they’re running well. He looks good. He’s doing well and he’s got a lot of speed.”

Wynstock under Kyle Frey wins the Los Alamitos Futurity (Benoit Photo)

Wynstock hasn’t started since a half-length victory in the $200,000 G2-Los Alamitos Futurity at 1 1/16 miles Dec. 16. Wynstock, unbeaten in two starts around two turns, is an anomaly because Baffert’s horses traditionally flourish in sprint races to begin their careers.

Wynstock, however, flopped as the favorite in his first two career starts, both at 6 ½ furlongs. But in his next start, and two-turn debut, Wynstock broke his maiden by 7 ½ front-running lengths at one-mile Oct. 15 at Santa Anita. Wynstock then outdueled more heralded stablemates Coach Prime and Wine Me Up in the Los Alamitos Futurity. Wynstock went off 13-1 in both victories.

“He was working well, and we knew he had talent, but for some reason when I ran him short, he never showed anything,” Baffert said. “They outfooted him away from there. I’ve had horses like that and then once I stretch them out, they’re different. He’s a different animal. I remember Real Quiet (Baffert’s 1998 Kentucky Derby winner). 

“I think his first five races, I ran him short. As soon as I stretched him out, then it was different. Some horses are that way. Stretched him (Wynstock) out and he was a different horse. We’re just taking it step by step. It’s going to be a good test for him. He’s going to ship. See how he handles that. He’s got to break well. I know there’s always speed in the race.”

Wynstock (the 4-1 second choice on the morning line) is scheduled to break from post 5 under Kyle Frey, who is two-for-two on the colt. Baffert trains Wynstock for Los Alamitos executives Ed Allred and Jack Liebau. 

Baffert won the Southwest in 2010 (Conveyance), both divisions in 2012 (Castaway and Secret Circle), 2013 (Super Ninety Nine), 2022 (Newgrange) and 2023 (Arabian Knight). Conveyance marked Baffert’s first Oaklawn starter since 2001. He’s also won the Rebel a record eight times, Arkansas Derby four times and the Smarty Jones Stakes, Oaklawn’s first Kentucky Derby points race, once.

Overall, Baffert has won a staggering 43 percent his career starts at Oaklawn (38 of 88), with his horses collecting 30 stakes victories and bankrolling $10,703,593 in purses. He has a 46-percent strike rate (19 of 41) in what is now Oaklawn’s four-race series of Kentucky Derby prep races.

Baffert’s noteworthy 3-year-old winners include champion Lookin at Lucky, who began his march toward a Preakness victory in the 2010 Rebel and American Pharoah, who romped in the 2015 Rebel and Arkansas Derby before sweeping the Triple Crown enroute to Horse of the Year honors.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” Baffert said. “But I’ve been very fortunate to have some good horses.”

The Southwest could offer as many as 42 points to its top five finishers (20-10-6-4-2, respectively) toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown.

Wynstock is ineligible to run in the Kentucky Derby after a Monday deadline passed without the colt being transferred to a non-suspended trainer. The stipulation was imposed by Churchill Downs after it suspended Baffert through 2024 following the disqualification of the trainer’s Medina Spirit from his 2021 Kentucky Derby victory for a medication violation.

Baffert said he will “definitely have something for the Rebel.” He nominated four horses to the Southwest.

Probable post time for the Southwest, the 11th race, is 4:50 p.m. (Central). The 12-race program begins at 11:30 a.m. The Southwest, which drew 12 entrants, has a record purse after previously being worth $750,000.

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