February 28, 2021

Game Winner to get freshening ahead of Kentucky Derby trail

Game Winner wins the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) under jockey Joel Rosario at Churchill Downs on November 2, 2018 (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) hero Game Winner will enjoy a holiday before gearing back up for the Triple Crown trail, according to the Breeders’ Cup notes.

“We’re going to freshen him up a little bit and get ready for the spring,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said of the early Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite. “He had a pretty rough (trip) but still won. You can’t compare horses, but of all the Juvenile winners, he’s the best one.”

Baffert’s three previous Juvenile victors were Vindication (2002), Midshipman (2008), and New Year’s Day (2013). Vindication and New Year’s Day, the latter like Game Winner owned by Gary and Mary West, never raced again after sustaining career-ending injuries. Midshipman was transferred to Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

None of Baffert’s five Kentucky Derby stars even competed in the Juvenile, a stat that Game Winner will try to erase. American Pharoah would have done that already, if he had not been scratched from the 2014 Juvenile with an injury.

Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes commented that Game Winner, along with the rest of the Baffert squad, was set to return to Santa Anita.

“He came out of the race in good shape and looked good this morning,” Barnes said Saturday. “He just walked this morning and will walk again on Sunday. We ship on Monday.”

Juvenile runner-up Knicks Go might race once more this month before taking up his winter quarters at Tampa Bay Downs.

“He ran his eyeballs out yesterday and he is fine this morning,” trainer Ben Colebrook said Saturday. “We are going to dodge Game Winner for a while. I don’t think Baffert will be sending anybody to Tampa.

“We’ll have a look at the (Kentucky) Jockey Club ([G2] back at Churchill Downs November 24). But it might come back a little quick. We’ll just see how he’s doing and make a decision closer to the race.”

Colebrook already has a good idea about his early 2019 agenda on the Tampa-to-Keeneland route.

“The first race he’d run in there (at Tampa) is the Sam F. Davis (G3). Our goal, since we’re based at Keeneland, would be to get him to the Blue Grass ([G2] next April).

“I would imagine he’ll go in the Sam F. Davis, if that goes well then the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), then the Blue Grass. That’s as far as we have mapped out, and that’s in a perfect world. We’ll see how it all unfolds.”

Plans called for Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner Jaywalk to jet to West Palm Beach, Florida, Sunday.

“She’s great, doing really good,” trainer John Servis said Saturday. “She’s bright-eyed; she ate up good.

“She’ll stay at Palm Meadows (Training Center) for a week or so and then I think I’m going to send her to Ocala for 30 days and let her be a horse for a little bit.”

Jaywalk will pursue the Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail, likely using the same series of preps as Servis’ 2016 Oaks vixen, Cathryn Sophia. She romped in a pair of Gulfstream Park stakes, the Forward Gal (G2) and Davona Dale (G2), and placed third in Keeneland’s Ashland (G1) en route to the first Friday in May.

Juvenile Fillies third Vibrance, who wasted no time in returning home to Santa Anita, might be seen in action in the December 8 Starlet (G1) at Los Alamitos.

Newspaperofrecord, one of the top stories of Breeders’ Cup 2018 after extending her dominance in the Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), has earned a break before her three-year-old season.

“She’s good so far,” trainer Chad Brown said of the undefeated Irish-bred.

So are her male stablemates who flopped in the Juvenile, Complexity (10th) and Standard Deviation (last of 13).

“I’m disappointed, obviously, that neither fired,” Brown added. “So far both are OK physically. It’s back to the drawing board with them and neither will run again this year. We’ll take them to Florida.”

Juvenile Turf (G1) victor Line of Duty is expected to winter in Dubai, trainer Charlie Appleby noted during Friday’s postrace press conference. The Godolphin colt has the British classics in his sights.

Uncle Benny, the near-miss second in the Juvenile Turf, was scheduled to ship to Palm Meadows Sunday.

Unbeaten Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Bulletin will likely get a freshening.

“I would imagine he would get a little vacation at WinStar Farm,” trainer Todd Pletcher said Saturday morning. “We haven’t firmed anything up just yet. At some point switching him to dirt might be under consideration but not any time in the near future.”

Three of the European juveniles who competed on “Future Stars Friday” will remain stateside.

Queen of Bermuda, fourth in the Juvenile Turf Sprint in her finale for William Haggas, is joining Graham Motion. The Mackem Bullet, the Juvenile Fillies Turf sixth, switches from Brian Ellison to Wesley Ward. The Black Album, eighth in the Juvenile Turf, is moving to the Rodolphe Brisset barn, as announced when Team Valor purchased the French-bred hitherto trained by Jane Soubagné.