Barn Notes 4/3/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

Will he get his Preak on? Yes, he will.

Zedan Racing Stables’ Muth will target the Preakness, the second leg of Triple Crown, May 18 at Pimlico following his victory in the $1.5 million Arkansas Derby (G1) Saturday at Oaklawn, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday afternoon.

“My plan’s always been, if he ran well there, we’re just pointing him for the Preakness,” Baffert said. "So, that’s what the plans are.”

Muth, Baffert said, was in good shape physically upon returning to his Southern California base Sunday night, a little more than 24 hours after his two-length victory over Just Steel in the Arkansas Derby.

Although the Arkansas Derby was a Kentucky Derby qualifying race, Muth was ineligible to collect any of the 200 points slotted to its top five finishers (100-50-25-15-10, respectively) toward starting eligibility because of Baffert’s suspension from Churchill Downs. The suspension stems from Medina Spirit, Baffert’s 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, being disqualified for a medication violation.

So, the Arkansas Derby, became a Preakness audition for Muth, who hadn’t started since winning the seven-furlong $200,000 G2-San Vicente Stakes Jan. 6 at Santa Anita. In addition to 12 weeks between races, Muth ($6.60) cleared a geographical hurdle (the Arkansas Derby was his first start outside California) and a numerical hurdle (the son of champion Good Magic strung together consecutive victories for the first time in his six-race career).

“It was good for him,” Baffert said. “First time shipping was important. He ran well. Everything went smoothly for him. He looked great in the stretch. Distance is not going to be a problem for him, so that was very encouraging. A mile and an eighth, I’ve always felt, really starts to separate them. It was a very tough, competitive race.”

Muth received a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 98, a career-high, for his Arkansas Derby victory under regular rider Juan Hernandez. The winning time over the fast track was 1:49.54. Muth, the $2 million sale topper at the OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training, has a 4-2-0 overall record and earnings of $1,504,100.

Muth was a finalist for an Eclipse Award as the county’s champion 2-year-old male after compiling a 2-2-0 mark from four starts. He won the 8 ½-furlong $300,000 G1-American Pharoah Stakes Oct. 7 at Santa Anita and closed 2023 with a runner-up finish behind Fierceness in the $2 million G1-Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.

Muth was scheduled to run in Oaklawn’s final major Arkansas Derby prep, the $1.25 million G2-Rebel Stakes Feb. 24, but Baffert scrapped the trip because he wasn’t satisfied with the colt’s Feb. 18 workout at Santa Anita. Muth received the green light for the Arkansas Derby after outworking fellow-3-year-old and stablemate Wynstock, a Grade 2 winner, March 22 at Santa Anita.

“He (Muth) wasn’t ready for it,” Baffert said, referring to the Rebel. “He was ready for the Arkansas Derby.”

Muth represented a record-tying fifth Arkansas Derby victory for Baffert and his record-extending 20th in what is now Oaklawn’s four-race Kentucky Derby points series. Baffert has also won the Rebel a record eight times, Southwest Stakes a record six times and the Smarty Jones Stakes once.

Baffert also won the Arkansas Derby in 2012 (Bodemeister), 2015 (American Pharoah) and divisions in 2020 (Charlatan and Nadal). Bodemeister finished second in the Preakness. American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years and ended his career with a victory in the G1-Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Baffert has won the Preakness a record eight times, including last year with National Treasure.

Finish Lines

Racing resumes Thursday at 12:35 p.m. (Central). It is the final scheduled Thursday of the 2023-2024 meeting. … Millionaire Grade 1 winner Adare Manor is pointing for the $1.25 million G1-Apple Blossom Handicap for older fillies and mares April 13 at Oaklawn, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday afternoon. The 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom closed March 30 with 17 nominations. Baffert won the 2012 Apple Blossom with Plum Pretty. … Entries will be taken and post positions drawn Sunday for the Apple Blossom and the six-furlong $500,000 G3-Count Fleet Sprint Handicap. … American Band ($57) represented the 499th career North American victory for trainer John Haran in the $250,000 Matron Stakes for older female sprinters last Saturday at Oaklawn, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. It was the first career Oaklawn stakes victory for Haran.