Bob Baffert has issued a warning to anyone with eyes on taking the $750,000 Whitney Stakes from him as he confirmed two-time Grade 1-winner Improbable is heading for the race.
Saturday’s race at Saratoga is now the intended target following a change of heart from Baffert.
Baffert’s original intention was to send Improbable for the Grade 1 Pacific Classic on August 22nd at Del Mar, but that has now been scratched.
The Hall of Fame trainer confirmed that his plans altered after Maximum Security’s victory in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap over the weekend on his return from a five-month hiatus.
“He’s coming,” Baffert said with a laugh from his California base on Sunday morning. “We were going to run him here in the Pacific Classic, but we wanted to see what Max was going to do [on Saturday].
“I think if Max laid an egg, we would have done that. But Max showed us the horse we all thought he was.”
Baffert landed the Whitney last year with McKinzie, the first time in his stellar career the trainer has won the race.
A maiden winner in September 2018; Improbable signed off his juvenile campaign with a five-length win in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity in December of that year.
He returned for his Triple Crown season and duly finished second in the Grade 2 Rebel and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby before posting a fourth in the Kentucky Derby and then running sixth in the Preakness Stakes.
After winning the Shared Belief at Del Mar in August last year, he again performed with credit in both the Pennsylvania Derby (fourth) in September and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (fifth).
Given the amount of racing he took at three, Baffert has elected for a restricted start to 2020.
He was second in the Oaklawn Derby in April on his return before going a place better in the Hollywood Gold Cup at Santa Anita.
Baffert’s sole worry is Improbable’s ability to handle the starting gates, but he is happy with the horse.
“The only problem with shipping him is that he has issues in the starting gate, for some reason,” Baffert added. “He doesn’t have [those issues] in California. But he’s doing really well.”
Meanwhile the trainer has confirmed that Irad Ortiz Jr is likely to be given the ride on Improbable in the Whitney; where the likes of Code Of Honour, Tom’s d’Etat and By My Standards are amongst the potential opposition for the dirt contest over one mile and a furlong.