Klimt delivers masterpiece in Del Mar Futurity

DEL MAR, Calif. – Kaleem Shah named Klimt for the late Austrian painter, and now he’ll get his silks painted on one of the lawn jockeys in the paddock at Del Mar after Klimt captured the Grade 1, $300,345 Del Mar Futurity on Monday’s closing-day card at Del Mar.

Del Mar paints the lawn jockeys in its paddock in the colors of the winning owners of the Pacific Classic, Del Mar Debutante, and Del Mar Futurity. Shah finished third in the Pacific Classic with Dortmund, had to withdraw his filly American Gal from the Debutante on entry day, but got a masterpiece from Klimt, who overpowered favored Straight Fire to win the Futurity by 4 1/4 lengths.

It was another paint-by-numbers job for trainer Bob Baffert, who has made the Futurity his personal canvas. Klimt gave Baffert his record 13th victory in the race, all since 1996, which encompasses 21 runnings.

“We’re fortunate to have these good horses, and the clients who step up to buy them,” Baffert said. “We’ve made good draft picks.”

Klimt ($7) was the second choice in the six-horse field. He got a favorable trip over a track that seemed to favor outside lanes. Under Rafael Bejarano, Klimt ranged up three paths wide on the turn, and once he turned into the lane Straight Fire could not go with him.

Klimt covered seven furlongs on the fast main track in 1:21.80.

Straight Fire finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Midnight Pleasure, then came Dynamic Ruler and Vegas Itch.

The race was marred by the severe injury and subsequent euthanization of Chasing Aces, who was pulled up in the stretch with a slab fracture to his left knee. He had ducked in near the 5 1/2-furlong pole, moved into striking position, but was eased out of the race entering the lane and vanned off.

“It probably happened when he ducked in,” said his trainer, Peter Miller. “The knee slabbed and collapsed. The vets said they hadn’t seen anything like that in years. The humane thing to do was put him down. I’m heartbroken, devastated.”

Chasing Aces, by Flatter, was second in his debut, then earned the fastest Beyer Speed Figure of the year among 2-year-olds, a 101, when beating maidens – including Straight Fire – at Del Mar on July 17. After that win, a majority interest in him was sold to Earle Mack and Adam Wachtel. Gary Hartunian’s Rockingham Ranch retained a minority interest. The Futurity was his third start.

Baffert and Shah had teamed earlier in the day to win the Pirate’s Bounty with Power Jam.

“What a way to end the meet,” said Baffert, who finished fourth overall in the trainer standings. “Kaleem always wanted one of those jockey statues.”

Klimt was purchased as a 2-year-old in training at Ocala in March for $435,000. After finishing fourth in his debut going five furlongs, he has won three straight, at ever-increasing distances, including the Grade 2 Best Pal in his prior start.

Baffert has always felt Klimt would be even better with more distance, a point he repeated Monday.

“We always thought he’d be better going two turns,” said Baffert, who said Klimt’s major goal this fall will be the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5 at Santa Anita, going 1 1/16 miles. “He’s got a great mind, will sit off horses.”

Klimt earned $180,000 to bring his career total to $336,960.

The last two winners of the Futurity were American Pharoah and Nyquist, who went on to win the Kentucky Derby the following spring. Baffert trained American Pharoah. Nyquist, trained by Doug O’Neill, is named for the Detroit Red Wings hockey player whose first name is Gustav, just like the late painter Klimt.