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, 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.”