November 30, 2023

West Coast passes Travers audition in Los Alamitos Derby

West Coast swooped wide and late to extend his winning streak to three in the Los Alamitos Derby (© BENOIT PHOTO)

Gary and Mary West’s West Coast stated his case to try the Travers (G1) after overcoming a wide trip in Saturday’s $200,690 Los Alamitos Derby (G3).

Dispatched as the 2-5 favorite, the Bob Baffert sophomore was patiently handled by new rider Drayden Van Dyke. Hall of Famer Mike Smith had been aboard in his latest, when West Coast scored his first stakes victory in the Easy Goer on Belmont Day. Smith was required elsewhere Saturday – to pilot champion Songbird in the Delaware H. (G1).

Van Dyke replicated the off-the-pace tactics, but waited longer to move. Stacked out five wide on the clubhouse turn, West Coast continued to take the overland route the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Cistron was setting fractions of :23.73, :47.89, and 1:11.64 while prompted by comebacker Klimt. Kimbear took a brief run at the leaders entering the far turn, but couldn’t sustain it.

Klimt challenged Cistron in a bold try off an eight-month layoff, although ring-rustiness told. B Squared, who had kept West Coast hung out, launched his bid and headed Klimt in midstretch.

West Coast fans had a few anxious moments as he appeared to be going nowhere four wide on the far turn. But grinding his way down the lane, he was finally going best of all inside the final furlong and ultimately galloped by 2 3/4 lengths. The Flatter colt answered the distance question decisively and finished in 1:48.65.

Klimt deserves extra credit for battling on to regain second from B Squared by a nose. Colonist closed belatedly for fourth, a head back of B Squared, in a three-way photo for the minors. There was a gap back to Cistron and Kimbear, and another to the ever-trailing Term of Art. Milton Freewater was scratched.

A son of 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1)-winning champion Caressing, West Coast was a $425,000 Keeneland September yearling. The May 14 foal understandably needed time to develop and didn’t race at two. After a second in his February 18 unveiling, West Coast was a handy maiden winner back at Santa Anita in March. He shipped to Keeneland for the Lexington (G3), looking all over like the winner until he was mugged by Senior Investment.

That sign of inexperience led Baffert to give West Coast an easier task in a Santa Anita allowance May 20, which could have set him up for the Belmont (G1). His workmanlike decision indicated he wasn’t ready for that level, so again he opted for a softer spot in the Easy Goer. Now with back-to-back stakes wins, West Coast looks ready now, and he’ll bring a mark of 6-4-2-0, $323,800 to the Spa.

The Wests had a notable contender for last year’s Travers as well – American Freedom, a similarly late-developing type. He ran into a buzzsaw of a stablemate named Arrogate and did well to finish second.