Improbable Provides Baffert With Back-to-Back Whitneys

Improbable | Sarah Andrew

'TDN Rising Star' Improbable (City Zip) scored back-to-back Grade I victories and provided his conditioner Bob Baffert with his second straight renewal of Saratoga's prestigious GI Whitney S. Saturday with a dominant score in this 'Win and You're In' event for the GI Breeders' Cup Classic. Heavily Favored Tom's d'Etat (Smart Strike) missed the break and was relegated to last early as native New Yorker Mr Buff (Friend or Foe) took command, loping through early splits of :25.12 and :49.74 with 3-1 shot Improbable keeping close tabs from second. Improbable seized command from Mr Buff as three-quarters went in 1:13.36 with MGSW By My Standards (Goldencents) charging up behind him. Improbable charged clear at the top of the lane and it was all over from there as the flashy chestnut rolled home to a two-length victory. By My Standards held on for second over Tom's d'Etat. Last term's GI Travers S. hero Code of Honor (Noble Mission {GB}) could only manage fourth over a tiring Mr Buff.

“He got up really quick and he put me in the race,” said winning pilot Irad Ortiz. “I just took a little hold because Mr Buff looked like the speed of the race. I put him in second in the clear, like we wanted and went from there. He was comfortable. By the backside, we felt pressure but by his own he started picking it up. I let him do his thing because they were going really slow so I let him go early. When I asked him turning for home, he responded really well.

“Big race. Big race,” said co-owner WinStar Farm's Elliott Walden. “Obviously, we had to get over the gate [issues] a little bit and Irad and the gate crew did a wonderful job. He broke great, Irad had him in a super position and felt great all the way around there. Bob [Baffert] had him ready to go, as usual, when he comes east. When he got in the position that we had hoped for, which was kind of tracking Mr. Buff, we felt really good. Then they throw up kind of easy fractions. But, he's just a different horse this year. That's his second Grade I in a row. He got beat by Tom's d'Etat in his first start at Oaklawn, but he's set up for a big year and we're just excited to continue that.”

As for the beaten favorite, Tom d'Etat, jockey Joel Rosario said, “He stumbled coming out. There was a lot going on. He was standing fine, he just missed the break. It changed my plan because I had to really get riding from there. I couldn't take my time. I thought the pace was fine. Even after that, I was not too far from the lead. It looked like I was in a good spot. But stumbling coming out of the gate, I lost ground right away.”

A perfect three-for-three as a juvenile, including his first top level success in the GI Los Alamitos Futurity, Improbable faced his first defeat when second in last term's GII Rebel S. and filled the same spot behind Omaha Beach (War Front) in the GI Arkansas Derby last term. Fifth, but promoted to fourth in the GI Kentucky Derby, the $200,000 KEESEP buy finished sixth in last year's GI Preakness S., after which he was given a brief freshening. Making a successful comeback in the Shared Belief S. at Del Mar, he was fourth in the GI Pennsylvania Derby in September and could only manage fifth in the GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile Nov. 2. Coming up just 3/4 of a length short of Tom's d'Etat in the Oaklawn Mile Apr. 11, Improbable flashed signs of his impressive juvenile form when running off to a 3 1/4-length success in the GI Hollywood Gold Cup S. going 10 panels in Arcadia June 6.

Pedigree Notes:

Improbable is one of 10 Grade I winners, 30 graded winners and 87 stakes winners for his late sire City Zip. He is also one of 26 top-level scorers, 103 graded victors and 221 stakes winners produced by a daughter of A.P. Indy. Improbable is the first foal to race out of Rare Event, whose -year-old filly Redemption Day (Quality Road), a $180,000 KEESEP purchase by WinStar, broke her maiden July 9 and finished second last time July 30. The 11-year-old mare is also the dam of juvenile colt Snake Doctor

Saturday, Saratoga Racecourse
WHITNEY S.-GI, $695,000, Saratoga, 8-1, 4yo/up, 1 1/8m, 1:48.65, ft.
1–IMPROBABLE, 124, c, 4, by City Zip
                1st Dam: Rare Event, by A.P. Indy
                2nd Dam: Our Rite of Spring, by Stravinsky
                3rd Dam: Turkish Tryst, by Turkoman
'TDN Rising Star' ($110,000 Wlg '16 KEENOV; $200,000 Ylg '17
KEESEP). O-WinStar Farm LLC, CHC Inc. and SF Racing LLC; B-St.
George Farm LLC & G. Watts Humphrey Jr. (KY); T-Bob Baffert;
J-Irad Ortiz, Jr. $400,000. Lifetime Record: 13-6-3-0,
$1,529,520. Click for eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Werk
   Nick Rating: A.
2–By My Standards, 122, c, 4, Goldencents–A Jealous Woman,
by Muqtarib. ($150,000 2yo '18 OBSAPR). O-Allied Racing
Stable, LLC; B-Don Ladd (KY); T-W. Bret Calhoun. $140,000.
3–Tom's d'Etat, 124, h, 7, Smart Strike–Julia Tuttle, by Giant's
Causeway. ($330,000 Ylg '14 KEESEP). O-G M B Racing; B-SF
Bloodstock LLC (KY); T-Albert M. Stall, Jr. $75,000.
Margins: 2, HF, 2HF. Odds: 3.25, 5.60, 1.00.
Also Ran: Code of Honor, Mr. Buff. Click for the chart, the PPs or the free catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

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