HALLANDALE BEACH, FL -- Baffle Me has a history of getting hot and bothered, but she has gradually learned to maintain her composure. The Mark Hennig-trained filly certainly handled the heat at Gulfstream Park Sunday to collect the $100,000 South Beach Stakes.
Carrying the colors of Lee Lewis, Baffle Me was bet down to even-money and came through for her many backers. Jockey Javier Castellano settled the chestnut in second as 25-1 shot Miss Montreal led through a leisurely :48 2/5 half-mile. Baffle Me began to tug at the reins on the far turn and poked her head in front as they straightened into the lane. Sure Route loomed boldly at the top of the stretch, but there was no getting by the game Baffle Me.
Baffle Me stopped the clock in 1:30 3/5 for the 7 1/2 –furlong turf test. Sure Route was a half-length behind at the wire, with Miss Montreal holding off second-choice Ana Luisa to complete the trifecta.
“I have to give Javier credit, he’s gotten her to relax well,” Hennig remarked. “A year ago at this time you could have never dreamed that this filly would sit off of a 48-and-change half-mile and, like he said, ‘I almost rated her too much today.’ But that was perfect. It was closer than we wanted it to be, but I think she had something left if they had gotten to her.”
Castellano was enthusiastic about the winner.
“She’s doing phenomenal right now,” the rider said. "She’s kind of a big filly and it takes her a little bit to get her momentum. It looked like the other horse was going to go by, but when she switched leads she got more comfortable and she gave me another gear, and she galloped out beautiful.”
Baffle Me, who has now won seven of 20 career starts, hit the board in each of her three outings over the Gulfstream grass last winter. Since then, she has competed exclusively in stakes company. After mixed success at Saratoga, the 4-year-old collected a pair of seven-furlong stakes races at Belmont in the fall.
Hennig believes the daughter of First Samurai is finally maturing, but took the precaution of saddling her in the horse path behind the saddling enclosure to avoid any potential problems.
“We stuck cotton in her ears a few races back because she gets so rattled at noises and people,” he explained. “In the paddock at Saratoga, she really came undone the first time I ran her up there. She still ran well, but I was surprised she did. She was completely washed out when she showed up in the paddock because she had to walk through the picnic grounds up there and she didn’t handle it well. Since then we’ve really, really worked hard with her and she’s responded.”
Baffle Me, a $130,000 Keeneland September yearling acquisition, has shown her best form at seven furlongs to a mile thus far, but she may get a chance at longer distances in 2014.
“We’re just going to enjoy this, rest up, and plan out a schedule for next year,” Hennig said. “She runs well fresh, so we’ll probably try to keep her a little fresh through the winter and look forward to a campaign over the summer. Javier said she could go even further now that she’s relaxing. I think she’ll just settle and sprint home.”
GULFSTREAM PARK is a Stronach Group company, North America’s leading Thoroughbred racetrack owner/operator. The Stronach Group racetracks include Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, and is one of North America's top race horse breeders through its award-winning Adena Springs operation. The Stronach Group is one of the world's largest suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering systems, technologies and services. Its companies include AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology; XpressBet, an Internet and telephone account wagering service; and Monarch Content Management, which acts as a simulcast purchase and sales agent of horseracing content for numerous North American racetracks and wagering outlets.The Stronach Group is also a major producer of televised horseracing programming through its HRTV cable and satellite network and is North America's premier supplier of virtual online horseracing games, as well as a leading producer of social media content for the horseracing industry. For more information contact David Joseph at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 954.457.6451.