June 6, 2023

West Coast doing well after Travers victory, next start uncertain

West Coast and jockey Mike Smith wire the 148th running of the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday, August 26, 2017 (c) NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography

One day after West Coast wired the 148th running of the Travers Stakes (G1) by 3 1/4 lengths at Saratoga, trainer Bob Baffert indicated no plans have been set for the colt’s next start.

West Coast gave Baffert a second straight win in the Travers, following Arrogate’s 13 1/2-length romp in 2016. The sophomore son of Flatter exited Saturday’s contest in good order and is scheduled to fly back to California on Monday.

“We don’t even know what his next start is, or even if he’s going to be in the (Breeders’ Cup) Classic (G1),” Baffert admitted. “Right now, we just want to get him home and then we’ll figure out a game plan. Right now, we’re not thinking anything for him.”

West Coast took command of the “Mid-Summer Derby” from the start and never looked back under jockey Mike Smith. He briefly appeared vulnerable rounding the turn as his rivals began their rallies, but kicked into another gear and drew off in the lane.

“We knew he was doing well. We knew we might have to put him near or on the lead, but we weren’t sure how he was going to handle that,” Baffert said. “We’re happy it worked out.”

Though the Hall of Fame conditioner wasn’t present at Saratoga, opting to watch the action from California, Baffert had a banner day.

Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes saddled reigning champion male sprinter Drefong to take the Forego Stakes (G1) by four lengths under Smith in only his second start of the year. The Gio Ponti four-year-old unseated Smith when returning in the Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) on July 29, his first start since a 1 1/4-length score in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).

Drefong entered the 2016 Breeders’ Cup off a 3 1/4-length win in his stakes debut, the King’s Bishop Stakes (G1). That contest was renamed this year to the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes and American Anthem sought to give Baffert, Barnes and company a second straight triumph in the seven-furlong affair off a 3 1/4-length score in the Woody Stephens Stakes (G2) on June 10.

American Anthem finished third on Saturday but, like both West Coast and Drefong, exited the race in good order. He and Drefong will join West Coast on the flight back to Southern California.

“We’re just trying to figure out what happened to American Anthem. He didn’t run his race. It happens,” Baffert said. “Drefong is a fast horse. It all worked out great with him. It was really nice winning the Forego because it’s a very prestigious and important race.”

As Smith was aboard for Arrogate’s win last year in the Travers, he and Baffert became the first trainer-jockey tandem to repeat in the history of the “Mid-Summer Derby” on Saturday. Smith rode all three of Baffert’s runners at Saratoga, but was already back at Del Mar on Sunday, working horses in the morning.

“I think my Travers runner will probably go off at 2-5 next year no matter what kind of horse he is,” Baffert said. “It’s a lot of fun to win on those big days like that, and it’s especially nice to win at Saratoga where the fans are really into racing and so appreciative.”

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