Kaleem Shah's Awesome Baby got back to her winning ways in Saturday's $200,000 Santa Ynez S. (G2) at Santa Anita Park, giving Bob Baffert his fourth winner in the 6 1/2-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.
After breaking her maiden in stellar fashion in her debut at Del Mar in early August, Awesome Baby turned in a pair of disappointing efforts in the Del Mar Debutante and Chandelier S., both Grade 1 races, which had Baffert somewhat perplexed.
“I was a little disappointed in her Chandelier. I thought she’d hold on. I was getting a little bit discouraged with her because she just wasn’t finishing. She’d been working well, but she was always working well before and she’d fall apart,” Baffert said.
Turning back in distance, Awesome Baby responded like Baffert expected. Though she had the lead the entire trip, Awesome Baby had to repel multiple challenges by Taste Like Candy, ultimately holding her off by a half-length at the wire.
“She ran dynamite. She broke really well, was well in hand until I needed to ask her and I just showed her the whip and she kept running. It was a great race out of her today,” said winning rider Mike Smith.
Asked about her next start, Baffert was noncommittal, but did say Awesome Baby would stay at sprint distances.
Baffert's previous Santa Ynez victories came with Indian Blessing (2008), Yearly Report (2004), and Queen of Money (1997).