Leading the way: Baffert lands record 14th Futurity with Game Winner
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert came into the $300,000 [£233,198] Del Mar Futurity confident his two entries were talented colts, but he felt Gary and Mary West's Game Winner would be better around two turns. It turns out the Candy Ride colt is pretty good at sprinting too.
Sent off the 3-1 second choice against 1-3 favourite and stablemate Roadster, Game Winner closed late on the outside to pass runaway pacesetter Rowayton and win by a length and a half under jockey Mario Gutierrez to give Baffert a 14th Futurity victory.
Roadster, who made a simultaneous move in the turn with Game Winner, could not match his stablemate's kick and finished third, a half-length behind Rowayton.
"Baffert told me, 'You know how to ride good horses. Go ahead and ride him like you can,'" said Gutierrez, who rarely gets mounts from the Hall of Fame trainer. "He said he wanted me to give him a little help out of the gate, then he said he thought he'd be strong for the finish. He was so right."
Rowayton went four and a half lengths clear of the field in the back stretch under Drayden van Dyke and still led with a furlong to run, but could not hold off Game Winner at the finish.
"That was the plan – to just go for it," Van Dyke said. "He did and he ran well. He fought me on changing leads but he'll learn. He'll get better."
'I knew he could handle it'
"Going down the backside Rowayton was way out there, and sometimes, if you get out there like that, you can steal a race," Baffert said. "I just hoped my guys knew they were in good spots. I knew they'd have to sprint home. I knew coming in that Game Winner was coming back a little quick, but he's a big, strong, heavy horse, and I knew he could handle it. I'd rather run him again than keep working him.
"I'm a little disappointed in Roadster, but it was only his second outing and sometimes they can get a little flat on you."
Jockey Mike Smith also expressed surprise in Roadster's performance.
"I don't know what to say," Smith said. "I'm at a loss for words. I thought he'd run a whole lot better."
Mind Control lands Hopeful Stakes
After securing the first Grade 1 win of his career with Mind Control in the $350,000 [£272,064] Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga on Monday, trainer Gregory Sacco's thoughts turned to his father, writes Frank Angst of BloodHorse.
"It's my first grade 1, so it's real special," Sacco said after Mind Control held off Mucho in the track's top race for two-year-olds.
"I'm the son of a trainer but my dad never had the opportunity to train these types of horses. It's very meaningful. It's a great feeling. I have my whole family here and I couldn't be any happier."
Mind Control found plenty for pressure to secure a three-quarter length victory under John Velazquez
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