In Search of First Derby Win, Godolphin Turns to Baffert

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Bob Baffert | Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire

By Bill Finley

The Week in Review

An unraced horse named Coliseum (Tapit) worked four furlongs in :47 2/5 yesterday morning at Santa Anita. It was his fourth recorded public workout, and the word is out. The off-shore bookmaker Bovada has the horse at 20-1 in its latest winterbook wagering for the Kentucky Derby.

It should come as no surprise that the colt is trained by Bob Baffert, but when it comes to the owner it’s not one of Baffert’s usual suspects. The horse is owned by and was bred by Godolphin.

Godolphin only recently became a client of Baffert’s. The trainer explained that he is now getting horses from them because they are appreciative of his on-going support of the Dubai World Cup races and they want to win the GI Kentucky Derby. With Godolphin having just won its first G1 Melbourne Cup with Cross Counter (GB) Teofilo {Ire}), the Derby remains of one of the few iconic races on the globe that the stable has not won.

“They’re counting on me,” Baffert said. “They’ve won everything there is to win but the Kentucky Derby. I think they’re saying, ‘Ok, it’s up to you now, Bob, to get it done.’ They sent me a couple of 2-year-olds, but this one (Coliseum) is definitely the best one.”

Before you rush off to Las Vegas to bet on Coliseum to win the Derby, you might want to note that Baffert also said,” I don’t have any American Pharoahs (Pioneerof the Nile) or Justifys (Scat Daddy) in my barn this year.”

But he does believe that Coliseum is a horse with a lot of upside.

“He’s a nice horse, but he’s a Tapit and has a lot of typical Tapit issues,” Baffert said. “He can be a head case. In the middle of his works he just wants to take off. But his work (Sunday) was definitely his best so far.”

Courtesy of XBTV, here’s a video of Coliseum working Sept. 21.

Baffert is planning to debut Coliseum in a six-furlong maiden race next Saturday at Del Mar. He said the horse will probably be at his best when he gets a chance to go around two turns.

It’s easy to see why Godolphin has put its Derby eggs in the basket of Baffert. He has won the race five times and over the last four years has produced two Triple Crown winners.

If Coliseum does not pan out, Baffert should still have plenty of firepower for the 2019 Derby. His 2-year-old contingent is led by GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and champion in waiting in Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}). He’s looking forward to the return of Roadster (Quality Road), who finished third in the GI Del Mar Futurity in his last start.

“He’s a very good horse,” Baffert said. “He had to have throat surgery, but should come back strong.”

Some believe that Improbable (City Zip) could be Baffert’s best Derby prospect. On the same day as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Improbable was an impressive winner of the Street Sense S. at Churchill. He will go next in the GI Los Alamitos Futurity On Dec. 8

“He’s really good. He’s the real deal,” Baffert said. “He looks like a smaller version of Justify; a 50% version of Justify. He’s the same color and has the same markings on his face.”

The Latest from The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation

The Thoroughbred Idea Foundation released its second white paper last week, calling for North American racing to switch its rules when it comes to disqualifications. The TIF would like to see racing go to the Category 1 system, which is used most elsewhere in the world. Under that system, a horse is not disqualified unless the stewards feel the horse it bothered would have otherwise finished in front of the horse causing the foul. The U.S. uses the Category 2 system, whereby a horse can be taken down if it causes another horse to finish further back than it would have without the infraction.

Going to have to respectfully disagree with the TIF on this one. If a horse is clearly bothered and would have finished, say, third, instead of fourth if not being interfered with, the horse causing the problems should come down. To do otherwise, is unfair to the owners of the bothered horse, which lost purse money due to the interference, and to bettors who might have, in this particular instance, used the horse in trifectas or bet it to show.

There is, however, one thing that definitely needs to change when it comes to DQ’s. Can anybody explain why the stewards still discuss the race with the jockeys after it’s over? What do they expect, that a jockey is going to say, “You know what judge, I almost put that horse over the rail, you need to take me down.”

In no other sport do officials talk to the participants when adjudicating an infraction. Imagine how ridiculous it would seem if an NFL referee spoke with the wide receiver and the cornerback before deciding on a possible pass interference call.

Election Day, 2018

While most of the country was fixated Tuesday on which party would take control of Congress, there were two ballot initiatives that were pertinent to racing.

With the passing of Amendment 13, Florida joined the New England states in banning dog racing. No track can continue racing following the end of 2020. That means there will be thousands of greyhounds looking for homes. If you’d like to help a good website to visit is Adopt-a-Greyhound.org.

The greyhound industry has all but been wiped out. Eleven of the 17 remaining dog tracks in the U.S. are in Florida.

It was a major win for animal rights activists, but that’s not what should alarm the racing industry. Even the most strident PETA types have never compared Thoroughbred racing to dog racing or made any serious calls for a ban of horse racing.

What’s worrisome is that the tracks will be allowed to stay open and offer whatever forms of alternative gaming they currently have. Any dog track owner that might have called for the end of the sport for humane reasons is likely a hypocrite. This was more about “decoupling.” The on-going effort by casino companies to drop whatever form of racing they offer and still keep their casinos. It worked, and don’t think for a minute that it won’t inspire some Thoroughbred/casino track owners to up their efforts to find ways to decouple in their states.

In Arkansas, voters approved an initiative that allows for four casinos in Arkansas. Two of the licenses will go to Oaklawn and a greyhound track in West Memphis. Those two tracks already have casinos, but ones that are limited so far as what forms of games they can offer.

But with Oaklawn’s casino doing so well, it’s doubtful that track owners are happy to trade an upgraded casino when the cost was added competition. The two new casinos will be built in Jefferson and Pope Counties. Pine Bluff, the largest city in Jefferson County, is just 84 miles from Hot Springs.

Could this be a problem for Oaklawn? Stay tuned.

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