When it comes to winning maiden sprints in Southern California, Bob Baffert is the master. He trains the most talented young horses on the grounds and he gets surprisingly decent pari-mutuel prices because he wins early and knows how to set things up.
For years, Baffert has often won when he starts two maiden sprinters in the same race. On Sunday, he had three runners in this 10-horse Santa Anita maiden field, so I strongly suspected at least one of them would be ultra live.
Baffert named leading jockey Garrett Gomez on first-time starter #3 Mother Ruth and Rafael Bejarano, who is second in the rider standings, on another debuter, #1 Belated Bid. But the money horse here was #9 Irish Gypsy.
Irish Gypsy is owned by Mike Pegram, who is a close friend and long-time client of Baffert’s. This filly ran well in the summer, as she lost to juvenile filly champion Stardom Bound by just two lengths.
Entering Sunday’s race, Irish Gypsy was coming off an eight-month layoff with a series of good workouts — but the lengthy absence typically causes horseplayers to wager with caution. The rider, David Flores, is competent but doesn’t have the pari-mutuel following that Gomez and Bejarano have. And over the years, Baffert has had lots of luck with Flores.
The betting public made #3 Mother Ruth the 5-to-2 favorite after no doubt seeing her published $425,000 purchase price, six fast workouts and the fact that Gomez had won on 12 of the last 25 Baffert-trained horses. Bejarano’s mount #1 Belated Bid was a late foal and hadn’t been working out as well, but was still 9-to-1.
If Baffert entered neither of these fillies in this race, and Gomez was named on Irish Gypsy instead of Flores, then it’s safe to say that Irish Gypsy would have been less than 2-to-1. But instead she paid $10.40 to win.
I am not saying that Gomez on Mother Ruth did not try hard, as anyone who watches the replay can see the rider all over this filly in the stretch to just miss at the wire. And I am not saying that the Baffert-Pegram-Flores team is doing something wrong or unethical.
All I am saying is that Baffert is very savvy, he knows the tendencies of the betting public, and tries hard to get decent prices on his maiden winners. So, it’s profitable to learn this trainer’s maiden moves.
Speaking as somebody who hates seeing 6-to-5 shots win, I wish more trainers were like him.
After the race, (why don’t reporters ask trainers before the race??) Baffert told the Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman that Irish Gypsy developed foot problems in 2008, so she had to be rested. “She just needed some time. If you don’t give them time, they’ll make you wait longer.”
When looking at this race for the site on Saturday night, I was tempted to bet Irish Gypsy, but put $350 on Mother Ruth because she just looked too good. But after thinking about this situation on Sunday, when my real money was on the line at race time I split my bet with 60 percent going on Mother Ruth and 40 percent on Irish Gypsy.
But, of course, I will take the $350 loss for betting Mother Ruth on the site.
To watch a replay of this race, go to www.calracing.com