Trainer Bob Baffert was back in the winner’s circle on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs, but after a race generally not associated with the Hall of Famer – the $500,000 American Turf (G2). Du Jour, co-owned by Baffert’s wife, Jill, and Debbie Lanni, burst from off the pace to capture his stakes debut.
Baffert had won the American Turf once before, all the way back in 2003 with Senor Swinger. Since his turf runners are overshadowed by the barn’s numerous dirt stars, Baffert hasn’t had any graded winner on the grass since Kingly in the 2019 La Jolla H. (G3).
A 5.60-1 chance coming off maiden and allowance wins at Santa Anita, Du Jour was given an ideal trip by Flavien Prat, who earlier lifted the Distaff Turf Mile (G2) aboard Blowout. On paper, the Temple City colt might have been part of the frenetic speed picture. Instead, Prat reserved him a few lengths back in a ground-saving fifth.
The fast pace did materialize courtesy of Excellent Timing, who ripped through an opening quarter in :22.86 on the firm course. Although he throttled down by the half in :47.31, Excellent Timing had already overexerted himself. He backpedaled on the far turn, when Next put his head in front of a fluctuating scene at the six-furlong mark in 1:12.60.
The stalking Winfromwithin got through on the hedge to take charge entering the stretch, but Du Jour was following his move. Tipped out upon straightening, he had room to split Winfromwithin and Next, and knifed through to score by 1 1/2 lengths.
The 15-1 Lucky Law finished fast from further back to grab second, overtaking Winfromwithin by 1 1/4 lengths. Hidden Enemy churned on wider out in fourth. Next came Palazzi, the troubled Royal Prince, Chess’s Dream, 2.90-1 favorite Annex, Scarlett Sky, Holy Vow, Next, Dyn O Mite, Barrister Tom, and the tailed-off Excellent Timing.
Du Jour negotiated 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.49 to extend his winning streak to three.
“The key was getting him to relax down inside,” Prat told track publicity. “I actually sent him quite a bit out of the gate and then it’s always a question of if they can come back to you after that. It felt like they were going a good clip up front and that helped him to relax too. He traveled well and when I asked him to split horses, he did it nicely.”
“These turf horses are easier to train,” Baffert said. “You don’t have to train them very hard. We tried to make a dirt horse out of him and he wasn’t that good.”
Du Jour didn’t run that badly in his lone try on the main track, winding up third behind Roman Centurian at Santa Anita Jan. 3. But his career debut on turf had been much better – a closing second at Del Mar Nov. 29 to Cathkin Peak, the subsequent winner of the Eddie Logan (and runner-up to Rock Your World in the Pasadena).
Accordingly reverting to turf, Du Jour broke his maiden Feb. 19 handily, and he wired an entry-level allowance over the same mile at Santa Anita March 28. Now the winner of three straight, he’s earned $375,220 from his 5-3-1-1 line.
Du Jour was bred by Woods Edge Farm in Kentucky and sold for just $19,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The bay commanded $280,000 as an OBS Spring juvenile. His dam, the Bernardini mare Guiltless, is a half-sister to Canadian Grade 3 victor Northern Causeway. Du Jour’s third dam, Broodmare of the Year Baby Zip, is responsible for Hall of Famer Ghostzapper as well as Grade 1 star City Zip, both noted sires.
Baffert put the graded stakes win on Derby Day in family perspective.
“I’m really excited about it,” Baffert added. “And I’m just so happy for Jill. She has to deal with me as a trainer, and all the ups and downs. For that horse to win today, and to listen to her excitement, now she has something that’s hers.”