Bob Baffert has taken numerous paths to the Kentucky Derby, but perhaps the one he’ll remember most fondly is the one taken by his first Derby winner, Silver Charm.
Looking back, the path Silver Charm took was not a conventional one, considering at this point, he had never run farther than seven furlongs. Well, don’t look now, but with all the potential Derby horses Baffert has in his barn this year, there is one who is on an almost identical path as Silver Charm.
Shakin It Up made his career debut at seven furlongs, finishing second under jockey David Flores. Silver Charm made his career debut at seven furlongs, finishing second under jockey David Flores.
For Shakin It up’s second start, Baffert made an equipment change, putting blinkers on. For Silver Charm’s second start, Baffert made an equipment change, taking the blinkers off.
Shakin It Up responded with a victory in his second start, again ridden by David Flores. Silver Charm responded with a victory in his second start, again ridden by David Flores.
Baffert then put Shakin It Up in a seven-furlong stakes race, the Real Quiet Stakes, in which he finished a fast-closing third, beaten only three-quarters of a length and earning a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. Baffert put Silver Charm in a seven-furlong stakes race, the Del Mar Futurity, which he won by a head, earning a 97 Beyer Speed Figure.
Shakin It Up did not run again as a 2-year-old. Silver Charm did not run again as a 2-year-old.
Shakin It Up made his 3-year-old debut in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes, winning by one length as the 2.20-1 second choice. Silver Charm made his 3-year-old debut in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes, winning by 1 ¾ lengths as the 2.60-1 second choice.
When Silver Charm won the Kentucky Derby, Baffert was coming off the most heart-breaking defeat of his career in the previous year’s Derby with Cavonnier, who ran one of the greatest losing races in Derby history. This year, Baffert will be going into the Derby off a defeat almost as heart-breaking, as Bodemeister ran one of the greatest losing races in Derby history.
When Baffert won the Derby with Silver Charm for owners Bob and Beverly Lewis, the first thing he did on the winner’s podium was thank his good friend Mike Pegram for bringing him into Thoroughbred racing. Pegram, of course, is co-owner of Shakin It Up.
Oh, and by the way, Shakin It Up’s sire, Midnight Lute, an Eclipse Award champion, was trained by Baffert and owned in partnerhip by Pegram. Midnight Lute’s sire, Real Quiet, an Eclipse Award champion, was trained by Baffert and owned by Pegram. Shakin It Up’s broodmare sire, Vindication, an Eclipse Award champion, was trained by Baffert. Shakin It Up’s maternal granddam, Silverbulletday, an Eclipse Award champion, was trained by Baffert and owned by Pegram.
Of course, none of this means that Shakin It up is going to win the Kentucky Derby, but it is quite an interesting parallel and it is doubtful Baffert has ever had one in his barn with so many close ties in one pedigree.
Second wave waiting in the wings
This is not only a big weekend for established stars such as Violence, Normandy Invasion, Falling Sky, Oxbow, and He’s Had Enough, it is a chance for a number of new faces to stamp themselves as legitimate Derby contenders and possibly begin the overthrow of the old regime. Do we really know how good Proud Strike, Departing, Mylute, Code West, Palace Malice, Orb, Majestic Hussar, Elmutahid, Cerro, and Sky Captain are? A victory by any of these could catapult them right up near the head of the list. And let’s not forget a sneaky horse like Speak Logistics, a talented stakes-winning colt who might have won the Sam F. Davis if he didn’t have to take up on the turn while challenging for the lead. He will be pretty much ignored in the Fountain of Youth betting and has a big chance at an upset. Oh, yes, Joel Rosario rides for the first time. And on the Fountain of Youth undercard is the highly regarded Crop Report, making his U.S. debut for Graham Motion and Team Valor, who also have Cerro. He has yet to run on dirt, but his connections are very high on him.
Looking down the road, here are a few way-under-the-radar horses who could pop into the Derby picture. Mudflats, who ran a deceptively good race in the San Vicente Stakes, despite his sixth-place finish; watch out if he gets a good trip next time out; Tiz a Minister and Omega Star, who finished a strong 1-2 in a Cal-bred allowance race and appear to have a bright future; Carve, a huge claim by Steve Asmussen from Claiborne and Dilschneider who turned in a powerful stretch run to defeat Baffert’s Title Contender in an Oaklawn allowance race; Governor Charlie, who is way down the Baffert ladder right now, but should start making some noise after his gutsy maiden score at a mile over the highly touted Footbridge, in which they ran a full second and two-fifths faster than the other division earlier on the card won by Kid Dreams; Saint Prado, who blew by Baffert’s 1-5 favorite Del Mar Sunset to win a seven-furlong maiden race by almost three lengths; and Transparent, who got wiped out on the backstretch and still drew off to win easily.