Klimt Paints Perfect Winning Picture in Best Pal

Klimt draws clear from Big League in the stretch of the Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar on Saturday.

Klimt draws clear from Big League in the stretch of the Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar on Saturday.

Kaleem Shah’s Klimt earned his first stakes victory in just his third career start and will now head to the Sept. 5 Del Mar Futurity (GI) as the runner to beat after capturing Saturday’s $200,000 Best Pal Stakes (GII) at Del Mar by 2 ¾ lengths.

The bay son of Quality Road, who was ridden by jockey Rafael Bejarano, broke alertly from the gate and sat just behind a moderate pace of :23.26 and :46.03 set by chief rival Big League for a half-mile, challenged for the lead on the outside on the turn and battled briefly with his tiring rival at the head of the lane before easily taking command in mid-stretch and drawing away to the victory. After posting the six-furlong split of 1:09.88 Klimt stopped the clock in 1:16.11 for the 6 ½-furlong distance over a main track labeled fast.

“This horse is strong,”Bejarano said. “He’s been working so well. I’ve been on him in the mornings and he was working great. He relaxed for me today and finished well. The way he finished, going 6 ½ (furlongs) today he’ll definitely run on.”

Klimt gave trainer Bob Baffert an eighth career Best Pal winner and also padded the veteran conditioner’s record number of career stakes victories at the seaside oval, bringing his total to 116 — 39 more than fellow Hall of Famer Ron McAnally’s total.

“I was disappointed [with Klimt’s first start, in which he finished a disappointing fourth as the 9-5 favorite] and thought maybe he’s a grass horse,” Baffert said. “But he came back, won his next one and he’s worked really well here. He’s hitting different gears and shown he’s wanted to go long. It’s nice to see Kaleem Shah back in the winner’s circle for stakes again.”

As the public’s even-money betting choice, Klimt returned $4, $2.60 and $2.10. Big League held on to finish second, returning $3.20 and $2.60 at odds of nearly 5-2, while Thirstforlife crossed the finish line another 3 ¼ lengths back in third and returned $3 at odds of 9-2. Rinse and Repeat, Secret House and Drafted completed the order of finish.

Klimt in the winner's circle after capturing the Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar.

Klimt in the winner’s circle after capturing the Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar.

Klimt, who is out of the Dixie Union mare Inventive, was purchased by Baffert, as agent for Shah, for $435,000 as an Ocala Breeders’ Sales 2-year-old in training this past March and was named after the late Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt. He earned $120,000 for his first career stakes score to bring his bankroll to $156,960 and his career line stands at two wins from three starts.

“I’m very happy with this colt,” Shah said. “Again, Bob Baffert is the best at picking out good horses.”

Also likely to return to action in the Del Mar Futurity in three weeks is Rockingham Ranch’s Big League, who broke his maiden at first asking over the Del Mar main track late last month for trainer Peter Miller and who will be ready for the rematch, according to jockey, Norberto Arroyo Jr.

“I didn’t even ask him last time,” Arroyo said of the colt’s 3 ¼-length maiden score. “That was like a workout. I knew he’d have to face this moment today though (stiff competition) and he responded well to it. He got a little tired, but it was a good race for him. With this one under him, he’ll run a lot better next time. [Klimt] won’t beat him next time.”

Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.

She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law known as the “Borell Law.”

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, two Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.

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