On Wednesday Bob Baffert entered a pair of horses–Chitu and Bayern–in the Kentucky Derby Trial this Saturday night. Later that day he changed his mind with one of the horses, indicating that Chitu would scratch from the Derby Trial and continue training at Chuchill Downs in preparation for a start in the Kentucky Derby on May 4th.
The entire situation bears a bit of explanation–Saturday night’s Derby Trial is the last opportunity for horses to earn Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Baffert would love to run Bayern in the Kentucky Derby but the horse is currently #23 in the points standings and he needs to be one of the top twenty to get into the race. A win in the Derby Trial is worth 20 points which would put Bayern into the field. The other option for Baffert is to play the waiting game and hope that there are three other horses ahead of Bayern pulling out of the Derby. Whether or not Bayern actually runs in the Derby Trial remains to be seen but now that he’s entered Baffert has the option to run for the points or wait with his fingers crossed.
Chitu won the Sunland Derby in New Mexico in his last outing and is currently ranked #12 in the Kentucky Derby standings meaning that he’s solidly in the field. Baffert didn’t immediately explain his quick change of plans. Chitu’s owner, Susan Chu, indicated after the Sunland victory that her horse’s Kentucky Derby plans were Baffert’s call. Chitu has finished first or second in four career starts but in many ways he remains a mystery—a lot to like including a 102 Beyer figure in the Sunland Derby win but not much racing experience. Of course that’s a far less significant knock against him in the new Kentucky Derby landscape then it would have been in previous years.
Baffert also confirmed that Martin Garcia would ride Chitu in the Kentucky Derby. Garcia was aboard the horse for his recent Sunland Derby victory in New Mexico and his second place run in the Grade 2 Robert B Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita earlier this year.