Kaleem Shah’s Klimt officially claimed his spot as the West Coast’s leading contender for the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) after capturing Saturday’s $300,345 Del Mar Futurity (GI), the closing-day feature of the 2016 Del Mar summer season, by an impressive 4 ¼ lengths. The bay son of Quality Road and the Dixie Union mare Inventive previously captured the Best Pal Stakes (GII) last month after breaking his maiden by 5 ½ lengths at Santa Anita in early July.
Monday’s victory was also trainer Bob Baffert’s second of the day, sixth for the entire Del Mar season, 13th in the Del Mar Futurity and 119th at Del Mar overall — by far the most of any trainer in history.
“When you’re fortunate enough to have great clients who will buy these great horses, good things happen,” Baffert said when asked if he liked making a habit out of winning Del Mar stakes races.
Under jockey Rafael Bejarano, Klimt raced mid-pack and on the outside while 4-5 favorite Straight Fire set the pace in splits of :22.33, and :44.38 for the first half-mile. After rounding the bend while widest of all, Klimt challenged Straight Fire for the lead at the head of the lane and, soon after sticking his head in front in time to post three-quarters in 1:09.14, drew away with every stride to earn the victory. The final time for the seven-furlong fast main track test was 1:21.80.
“I loved my position, all the way around there,” Bejarano said. “Just perfect. I could see the favorites up front going fast and that was good for me. At the three-eighths, I felt I was home. I was loaded up and they’d gone fast early. My horse kicked in. Perfect.”
As the public’s second betting choice at odds of 5-2, Klimt paid $7, $2.80 and $2.20. Straight Fire held on for second and was worth $2.40 and $2.10. Midnight Pleasure returned $2.80 at odds of more than 11-1. The $1 exacta was good for $6.60 and the $.50 trifecta $13.
Dynamic Ruler and Vegas Itch completed the order of finish after Chasing Aces, who ducked in sharply at the gap, was pulled up at the top of the stretch. Unfortunately, the son of Flatter suffered a slab fracture to a knee and was humanely euthanized.
Klimt was bred in Kentucky by Thoro-Bred Stables and was purchased by Shah for $435,000 as a March 2-year-old in training at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales earlier this year. He’s now won three of four career starts for earnings of $336,960.
“We’ve always thought that going two turns is where he’s really going to excel,” Baffert said. “He’s got a great mind, will sit off horses and Bejarano rode a great race. He didn’t chase anything, he just sat [off the pace], rode his own horse and showed a lot of patience. Coming to the top of the stretch I knew he was loaded and I said, ‘I just hope the other horse [Straight Fire] doesn’t have another gear.’ It was very exciting to watch.”
Klimt was named for the Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, who is probably best known for painting “The Kiss” and “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” and is Shah’s first stakes winner named after a painter. The native of India is known for naming his horses in very American patriotic ways, and also after European football clubs, but some of that all may change after Klimt.
“Everyone started taking all my football club names,” Shah said. “This is my first runner named after a painter and it worked out pretty well. I have some other painter names reserved, so I’ll definitely have more runners named for painters in the future.”