The $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes (G3) at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on Saturday looked like another stepping stone for the $1 million purchase Thousand Words, but trainer Bob Baffert has said the smashing debut winner will scratch in favor of longer races down the line. This seven-furlong contest is left with a field of five, including the Baffert-trained High Velocity. Baffert himself has won this race nine times already, including with Mucho Gusto last year.
#1 Rager (12-1) was a debut winner on the grass for trainer Andrew Lerner. The son of Into Mischief will have Martin Garcia aboard, who piloted him for his turf win. The pedigree says dirt, as he’s out of a Distorted Humor mare, but his dirt works have never been terribly fast.
#2 Howbeit (12-1) ran here twice over the summer, finishing second once at the $50,000 claiming level. He has since won two straight, and switched barns to be in the care of Doug O’Neill. Rafael Bejarano gets up for the first time. The son of Secret Circle is coming off a six-furlong allowance win at Santa Anita in October.
#4 Zimba Warrior (12-1) is a son of hot sire Khozan for trainer Keith Desormeaux. He broke his maiden at the Fresno fair in his third start, after a third and ninth place effort sprinting here this summer. He came back to be third at 11-1 in the Sunny Slope Stakes at Santa Anita. Second in that race ahead of him was the horse on the outside here today, Strongconstitution.
#5 High Velocity (5-2) could go off favored. The $350,000 son of Quality Road gets Drayden Van Dyke up after breaking his maiden under another rider going 5 ½ furlongs October 13. Baffert chose this one over Thousand Words to run; he worked from the gate on November 11 with a solid five furlong move at Santa Anita in 1:00.2.
#6 Strongconstitution (9-5) is a $220,000 son of Constitution also trained by O’Neill. Abel Cedillo gets aboard today with regular pilot Garcia landing on the rail horse. The one broke his maiden first out on the grass, then nearly won the Sunny Slope Stakes, missing only by a neck to his stablemate Fore Left. He worked here on November 9, earning the bullet after four furlongs in :47.4.