Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has had an eventful New Year’s weekend, revealing a split with owner Kaleem Shah, and deciding to withdraw Juddmonte Farms’ Arrogate from Sunday’s San Pasqual (G2) at Santa Anita.
Arrogate, last seen defeating California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), intended to use the San Pasqual as his prep for their hotly anticipated rematch in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
But Baffert gave the scoop overnight to Racing Post that he was concerned about the wet track at Santa Anita, and preferred to scratch Arrogate. Considerable rains have fallen in the area Friday and Saturday, leading track officials to alter the two graded turf stakes on New Year’s Eve. The Robert J. Frankel was moved to the sloppy, sealed main track, and the American Oaks (G1) was trimmed from 10 to nine furlongs.
In Arrogate’s absence, the San Pasqual is down to four horses, and Midnight Storm has inherited morning-line favoritism at odds of 2-5.
Baffert added that Arrogate will go directly to the January 28 Pegasus. That means the presumptive champion three-year-old colt of 2016 will meet California Chrome, the likely Horse of the Year, fresh off a nearly three-month layoff – a longer gap than worked for him between the August 27 Travers (G1) and November 5 Breeders’ Cup Classic. “Chrome,” in contrast, already has the benefit of a prep run, having aired in the December 17 Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos.
The other big news revolving around Baffert broke late Saturday night, with published reports in Daily Racing Form and Blood-Horse that Shah was moving all of his horses out of the barn. Baffert told DRF’s Steve Andersen that he and Shah “have ended their business relationship.”
California Chrome’s trainer, Art Sherman, is welcoming six of Shah’s horses, including his headliners Dortmund and Klimt. Multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Dortmund, who placed three times to Chrome last year, was most recently fourth as the 3-5 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Klimt, a convincing winner of the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and Best Pal (G2), was a disappointing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
“It was a big surprise for me,” Sherman told Santa Anita’s Ed Golden. “I only met Mr. Shah one time. He was very cordial and a very nice man.
“It came out of the blue. I’ve never had a client like him with so much money.”
The timing couldn’t be better for Sherman, who will bid Chrome adieu after the Pegasus. The six-year-old is set to begin his stud career at Taylor Made near Nicholasville, Kentucky. Now Sherman will get another high-class older horse in Dortmund, and a Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful in Klimt.
Shah is dispatching seven horses to trainer Doug O’Neill, notably Anoakia heroine American Gal, who’s placed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Starlet (G1) in her last pair, and another newly turned three-year-old in recent maiden winner Iliad.
“We’re so excited, blessed and grateful,” O’Neill said. “We’re looking forward to being a part of Team Shah.”
The trainer’s brother, Dennis, echoed the unexpected nature of the development.
“We were sitting in our suite at Santa Anita when we got the news. We were extremely surprised.”
Shah’s past successes with Baffert included 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and Haskell Invitational (G1) winner Bayern; 2014 Triple Bend (G1) scorer Declassify; 2012 Las Virgenes (G1) heroine Eden’s Moon; multiple Grade 2 victor Fed Biz; and Grade 2-winning sire Concord Point.