INGLEWOOD, Calif. (July 18, 2009) — Bob Baffert, still reeling just a week after the sudden retirement of Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, unveiled another 3-year-old star Saturday as Misremembered gave the soon-to-be Hall of Fame trainer a record-tying fourth victory in the $300,000 Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park.
This one was special for a couple of reasons. Not only did it help fill the sudden void in the Baffert stable, it gave Baffert his first stakes victory as breeder.
“It’s sort of been tough, I’ve been depressed since Pioneerof the Nile got hurt, so this sort of takes a lot of the sting out of it,” said Baffert, who will be inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame next month in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Misremembered, ridden perfectly by Victor Espinoza, seized the lead from the start, got a breather on the backstretch, and had plenty left in the stretch, pulling away from favorite Grazen to win by 1 ¾ lengths.
“Victor, that was his,” Baffert said. “I said get him in a nice easy mode and he beat those guys to the punch. He’s got that huge long stride, so hopefully we can keep him healthy.”
Baffert, who also saddled Captain Steve (2000), Congaree (2001) and During (2003) to win the Swaps, matched the record originally set by D. Wayne Lukas.
“I’ve never had a horse like this (as a breeder) — all our horses are terrible,” Baffert said with a laugh. “I wanted to breed her to Point Given, but John Sikura forced me to breed her to Candy Ride. So it’s worked out. It’s exciting to have a horse like this. It looks like this one is not a problem, he’s getting better. He was coming into this race in great shape and he’s going to get better with age.”
The win was the first in the Grade II event for Espinoza, who has ridden Misrembered in all but one of his five starts, netting three wins and a second for partners Natalie Baffert and George Jacobs.
“I’ve ridden him several times and we really get along good,” Espinoza said. “He was ready today. I wanted to get out of there fast. I was planning to go to the front. He’s a free-running horse and I wanted to take it to the other horse early. If they went too fast I would have had to slow down a little bit. But I figured if we were going slower than :23 and :45 we’d be okay. After three-quarters they were going to have to come running because with those fractions I knew he was going to be hard to beat.”
Misremembered, second to Grazen last month in the Affirmed Handicap, covered 1 1/8 miles on Cushion Track in 1:49.02 while banking $180,000 to raise his earnings to $259,200. He paid $10.20, $3.80 and $3.20 as the second choice in the field of seven 3-year-olds.
Grazen, a winner of three straight heading into the Swaps, returned $2.60 and $2.10. Scorewithcater, another 1 ¼ lengths back in third, paid $7 to show.
“He’s just not the same horse as when he makes the lead,” jockey Rafael Bejarano said of the runner-up. “He didn’t want to run by that other horse. He was nice and relaxed but he didn’t have the same focus. I thought he was still going to show me something in the stretch because I had a lot of horse, but he looked like he was kind of afraid to go by.”
It was a big day for Candy Rise as he also sired the winner of the co-feature — 3-year-old filly Evita Argentina.
Winner over the boys earlier in the year in the San Vicente Stakes, she rallied from last to beat older fillies and mares in the $150,000 A Gleam Handicap earlier on the card as jockey Joel Rosario completed a two-win day to clinch the riding title at the Spring/Summer Meet.
Evita Argentina, trained by John Sadler, covered seven furlongs in 1:21.80 while finishing two lengths clear of Silver Swallow to win for the fifth time in ten starts. The stakes victory was a meet-leading seventh for Sadler and it officially ended Bejarano’s bid to add to his streak of six consecutive meet titles. Despite three wins Saturday, he trails Rosario by a 79-69 margin entering Sunday’s meet finale.
“It’s been a good meet, I think I’ve won more stakes races than anybody,” Sadler said. “So it was a good way to cap it off. He (Rosario) is the next big thing, I think. He is just getting and better and getting more confidence. He’s a very strong young rider, so he has a big future at 23. They take big leaps when they are young, getting better like that.”
Evita Argentina paid $9.20, $5 and $3.80 as the second choice in the field of nine. Silver Swallow returned $5.60 and $3.20, while the show payoff on Lady Lumberjack was $4.40. Favorite Coco Belle, stablemate of Evita Argentina, set the pace before fading to sixth.
The victory, worth $90,000, increased Evita Argentina’s earnings to $431,400.
“I rode her last time going longer and she really didn’t have much punch in the stretch,” Rosario said. “I think she’s better going short. Today, when I asked her, she really responded. I knew they were going very fast so I wasn’t worried about being so far back. That’s how she likes to run. She was moving so fast I just wanted to make sure she was in the clear.”
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