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Horse Racing | THOROUGHBRED RACING

Semoran Lesson May Make Anet Another 'Charm

May 10, 1997|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

About two hours after Bob Baffert saddled Silver Charm to win the Kentucky Derby a week ago, the silver-haired trainer finished second with Semoran in a $59,800 allowance race at Churchill Downs.

Not a bad horse, Semoran, who won the Remington Park Derby early last year, was running at 1 1/16 miles on Derby day, a distance that better suits his breeding and his stamina. A year ago last Saturday, though, Semoran ran in the grueling 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby, as part of an entry that included the eventual second-place finisher, Cavonnier. Baffert knew Semoran didn't belong in the race, but what's a trainer to do when one of his clients owns a nice 3-year-old and has never had a Derby starter before? In Baffert's case, he enters the horse in the Derby.

Semoran ran 14th in the Derby, beaten by 17 3/4 lengths, and has run only six times since, winning once. "The Derby really knocked him out," Baffert said.

This year, Donald Dizney, who owns Semoran, had another prominent 3-year-old in Anet, who set a track record for 1 1/16 miles at Turfway Park in March and was an easy winner of the Lone Star Derby three weeks later. Dizney had Derby fever again, but this time Baffert was able to dilute his enthusiasm. Anet stayed in the barn while his stablemate, Silver Charm, won the Derby for Baffert and owners Bob and Beverly Lewis.

"Anet would have beaten at least half the horses in the field," Baffert said. "But he wasn't going to win the Derby, and if you're not going to win, there's no sense beating up your horse. If you don't run 1-2 in the Derby, you lose money on the deal, after all the expenses are paid. It was tough for Don Dizney, not running, but he accepted it."

Actually, Baffert's campaign to keep Anet out of the Triple Crown mix, so he could run him where he fit, began only a day or two after the Turfway Park race. He got a call one morning from Steve Haskin, who surveys Kentucky Derby prospects for the Daily Racing Form on a weekly basis. Haskin was gushing about Anet's Turfway race.

"Please, Steve, do me a favor," Baffert said. "Don't put him in your top 20 this week."

"But Bob," Haskin said, "this horse had a great Beyer [speed figure]. He ran a big race."

"Yeah, I know," Baffert said, "but the man who owns him owns Semoran. He'll read your stuff and think he belongs in the Derby. This horse is real little, he's not bigger than a peanut, and he's not ready to run a mile and a quarter. So cool it a little, will ya?"

Haskin and Dizney both stayed cool, and now Dizney has a fresh horse positioned to make a lot of money this year while the upper crust of the division pounds away at one another in the Triple Crown. The morning after the Derby, Pimlico officials, eager to beef up the field for the Preakness, roamed the barn area at Churchill Downs, suggesting that Anet might run in their race. But when Baffert arrived at his barn, he quickly ended that speculation, warding off the Preakness for Anet just as he had the Derby. "It's the Illinois Derby for Anet," he said.

The Illinois Derby, which will be run at Sportsman's Park today, is a $500,000 race and Anet, with Corey Nakatani riding, is the 8-5 favorite.

"The only thing I don't like about his chances is the weight," Baffert said. "He's spotting the rest of them a lot of weight. I didn't realize the conditions [of the race] would have him carrying that much."

Anet will carry 124 pounds, more than in any of his other races, and he's giving the rest of the seven-horse field between five and 10 pounds. Stop Watch, the second choice on the morning line at 3-1, is carrying only 114 pounds. Wild Rush, who is 7-2, is a Hollywood Park shipper who will shoulder 117 pounds for the 1 1/8 miles.

Yes, 124 pounds is a lot of weight for a young 3-year-old who doesn't even weigh 900 pounds. But it's less than 126 pounds, the weight that Anet would have had to carry in the Kentucky Derby.

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Baffert will remain at Pimlico today, to saddle Isitingood, the 3-1 second choice in the $600,000 Pimlico Special.

Trainer Richard Mandella's Gentlemen, who hasn't run since he finished third, behind stablemates Siphon and Sandpit, as the favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 2, is the 2-1 favorite in a field of eight.

This is the field, in post-position order, with jockeys, weights and odds:

Key of Luck, Jerry Bailey, 114 pounds, 8-1; Dr. Banting, Willie Martinez, 108, 30-1; Tejano Run, Pat Day, 114, 5-1; Secreto De Estado, Julio Pezua, 108, 50-1; Gentlemen, Gary Stevens, 122, 2-1; Mt. Sassafras, Edgar Prado, 114, 4-1; Isitingood, David Flores, 121, 3-1; and Skip Away, Shane Sellers, 119, 9-2.

Skip Away, the Eclipse Award winner as best 3-year-old male last year, is winless in three starts, the most recent a third-place finish as Isitingood won the $250,000 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park on April 20.

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