August 4, 2019 - Del Mar, Race 5, Msw, USD $61,000, 5 1/2F, .0000

Eight Rings, C, 2, 2017 by Empire Maker

1st Dam: Purely Hot (GSW, $426,905), by Pure Prize
2nd Dam: Wood Not, by Kissin Kris
3rd Dam: Wood So, by Baederwood

Owner: SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, LLC, Frederick Hertrich, III, John D. Fielding & Golconda Stables
Breeder: WinStar Farm, LLC (KY)
Trainer: Bob Baffert

The powerful ownership group involved with juvenile colt Eight Rings (Empire Maker) celebrated their first win as a team Sunday as the buzzed-about Bob Baffert trainee blitzed Del Mar maiden company to become a no-brainer 'TDN Rising Star'. A $520,000 Keeneland September yearling, the dark bay prepped for this with a bullet five-furlong drill from the gate in 1:00 flat here July 25 in company with unraced Garth (Into Mischief--Country Star) (Click for XBTV Video) and was crushed down to 3-5 favoritism despite the presence of several other well-bred and pricey newcomers. Pushed on early by pilot Drayden Van Dyke to take a narrow advantage, Eight Rings was hung out three deep as two foes sped up to his inside to share pacesetting duties through a :21.83 opening quarter. The favorite dispatched with those foes with eye-catching ease around the bend, however, got the half in :45.41 and ran up the score from there to the tune of 6 1/4 lengths. He stopped the clock in 1:03.68. Express Train (Union Rags), himself a $500,000 KEESEP grad, was 9 1/4 lengths clear of third finisher and $300,000 OBSAPR buy Shooters Shoot (Competitive Edge) in third.

 Eight Rings is a son of Purely Hot (Pure Prize), who at one point had been claimed for $4,000, but blossomed at ages five and six to become a graded winner in the 2014 GIII Whimsical S. sprinting over the Woodbine all-weather. A granddaughter herself of MGSW Wood So (Baederwood), Purely Hot has a yearling colt by Tourist and a filly foal by Pioneerof the Nile. She was bred back to Union Rags for 2020.

 Eight Rings is owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Fred Hertrich III, John Fielding and Ben Goldberg and Elliott Friman's Golconda Stables. Led by SF and Starlight--co-owners of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy)--the group made an even bigger splash than usual at last year's yearling sales when they invested $11,430,000 to secure 24 Classic-leaning colts with the plan to send them all to Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, eyeing stallion-making events like the Triple Crown races.

 "When we bought him as a yearling, we were excited, and Eddie Woods, who broke the horse, said he didn't turn a hair all winter," said SF's Tom Ryan Sunday evening from Saratoga on the eve of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale. "He was one of the first horses shipped out to California this spring and has trained like a good horse since then. They've still got to show up in the afternoons, but he looks like he really enjoys his job."

 As for what the buying group liked about the colt last September, Ryan said, "There was consensus across the board on him. Bob loved him, [agent] Donato [Lanni] loved him, [Newgate Farm's] Henry Field loved the horse and so did [Starlight's] Frankie Brothers. Every time we went back to see him, he put his head down, moved well. He's got a beautiful head, neck and shoulder and he's very balanced."

 Considering the quality of the group's stock, it's a pretty safe bet that Eight Rings won't be the only 'Rising Star' unveiled by the group in the coming months. As for who the other standouts might be, Ryan said, "We have a few that we're excited about, but we'll let them do the talking."

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