A crafty ride through traffic by Martin Garcia carried Gary and Mary West's New Year's Day to victory in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
Along with Vindication (2002) and Midshipman (2008), New Year's Day's trainer Bob Baffert now has three Juvenile winners.
Trying conventional dirt for the first time on Saturday, New Year's Day had two prior starts, both on the Polytrack at Del Mar this summer. With a string of four very fast works at Santa Anita over the past month, Baffert had the son of Street Cry (IRE) ready for his best effort.
Breaking from post four, Garcia deftly guided New Year's Day to the rail by the time he hit the first turn. After a relatively clear trip for the first six furlongs, Garcia found himself in seventh about a half dozen lengths from the lead.
Going into the final bend, he moved the bay colt off the rail and around tiring foes. Straightening for home, he dove back to the rail. For a bit, it looked as though New Year's Day wouldn't be able to run down Havana or Strong Mandate, but he kicked into high gear in the final sixteenth to win by a length and a quarter in 1:43.52 for the 1 1/16-miles.
"My horse doesn't have that too much pace," Garcia said. "I was exactly where I wanted to be. The rail was open and I took it, I didn't panic."
The Wests, who Baffert began training for a couple of years ago, were looking forward to next year's 3-year-old races for their budding superstar.
“This our greatest accomplishment in horse racing, now we've got something to look forward to for the 3-year-old races,” said Gary West in the winner's circle.
"He showed us a lot in his two races at Del Mar," added Baffert. "I know he's a 2-year-old horse and he's been showing us a lot here in the morning. He's been telling us in the mornings that he's ready.
"Martin rode a terrific race on him. I told him to take advantage of the rail and he did.”
New Year's Day was a $425,000 Keeneland September sale graduate. The Wests' bloodstock agent, Ben Glass, bought the colt out of the sale's first session from Clearsky Farms, agent.
The Juvenile winner is the first foal out of Justwhistledixie, who in 2009 won the Bonnie Miss S. and Davona Dale S. (both G2) and was runner-up in the Acorn S. (G1) for West Point, Lakland Farm, and R. Dee Hubbard.