HORSE RACING : Tuzla Gives Baffert a Grade I Sweep
The only Del Mar record that might approach the one trainer Bob Baffert set Saturday is jockey Bill Shoemaker’s 94-win season in 1954.
Among trainers, Baffert’s feat stands alone. They ran five Grade I races here this summer, and Baffert won them all, concluding with Tuzla’s survival in a four-horse scramble to the wire in the $400,000 Ramona Handicap.
To win all the Grade I’s Del Mar had to offer, Baffert’s stable needed a cross-section of good horses. Preceding Tuzla, a 5-year-old grass mare, were Joe Who in the Eddie Read Handicap, Tout Charmant in the Del Mar Oaks, General Challenge in the Pacific Classic and Chilukki in the Vinery Del Mar Debutante.
Chilukki was the only favorite in the quintet. Tuzla, who had been favored in seven of her last eight starts, went off at 4-1 in the Ramona, having been beaten here three weeks ago and suspect at the 1 1/8-mile distance.
“She’s got so much heart,” Baffert said. “When you have a win machine, it makes my job a lot easier. Dana Barnes, who gets on her in the mornings, got her to relax and told me the mile and an eighth would be no problem.”
At the wire, Tuzla was a head better than Happyanunoit, who was a head in front of Spanish Fern. Que Belle, who finished fourth, was only another neck back. Tranquility Lake, the even-money favorite, finished fifth after leading in mid-stretch. Bobby Frankel, a three-time winner of the Ramona, trains Happyanunoit and Spanish Fern, and Julio Canani, who trains Tranquility Lake, used to train Tuzla.
Asked about his sweep of the five Grade I races, Baffert said: “I didn’t think about it. I’m just glad I have the clientele that furnishes these horses. It’s one of those things where I say, ‘Come with me and maybe we’ll conquer.’ ”
Robert and Janice McNair, who bought Tuzla from David Milch for a reported $1.3 million early last month, also own Chilukki. Baffert thought he had closed a deal for Tuzla a couple of years ago, but he said Milch changed his mind.
“He said at the time that that was the only good horse he had, and he didn’t want to lose her,” Baffert said.
Tuzla’s time was 1:47 3/5. The French-bred mare, carrying 121 pounds, the same as Tranquility Lake, racked up her 12th win in 20 starts, earned $240,000 and went over the $1-million mark in total purses.
The only Baffert Grade I winner not ridden by David Flores was Joe Who, who had Chris Antley aboard.
“He [Baffert] is the man,” Flores said after the Ramona. “He gives me all the confidence in the world. He told me in the paddock to wait with her. We made the lead so easy, I couldn’t believe it, and maybe I went with her too soon. They were coming at me at the finish, but she had enough to win it.”
Before Saturday’s $200,000 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, trainer Wayne Lukas told jockey Jerry Bailey to win by a wide margin if he could.
“I didn’t want to put any more stress on Bob Lewis than he’s already had this week,” Lukas said.
High Yield and Bailey followed orders, as the $1-million colt rolled to a five-length victory. Back in California, co-owner Bob Lewis, recovering from triple-bypass heart surgery Thursday, shouldn’t have had any doubts about this victory.
Lewis and his wife, Beverly, have won two of the last three Kentucky Derbies, with Silver Charm and Charismatic, and High Yield gives them another top prospect for Churchill Downs in 2000. The Lewises’ partners in High Yield, who sold for $1.05 million as a yearling, are Michael Tabor and John Magnier. Tabor won the 1995 Derby with the Lukas-trained Thunder Gulch.
“I hope this knocks a week off Mr. Lewis’ recovery time,” Bailey said. “This colt showed how good he is today. When we hit the far turn, I was exactly where I wanted to be.”
Favored High Yield paid $5.70, running seven furlongs in 1:22 4/5.
Horse Racing Notes
Bob Baffert saddled three winners at Del Mar, giving him 25 for the meet, which ends Wednesday. Eight of his wins have been in stakes. . . . Laffit Pincay’s second-race win with Weinhard was the 8,785th of his career. . . . Old Trieste, 3-5 on the morning line, will try to repeat today in the Del Mar Breeders’ Cup Handicap.