HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, April 24, 2020) – Grade 1 winner Eight Rings’ second chance to run for the roses begins Saturday at Oaklawn when he makes his 2020 debut in the $100,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-olds at 6 furlongs.
Probable post time for the Bachelor, the ninth of 11 races, is 4:45 p.m. (Central). First post Saturday, Day 53 of the scheduled 57-day season, is 12:35 p.m.
Eight Rings entered 2020 as one of the country’s leading Kentucky Derby candidates, but didn’t come around as fast as Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert had hoped and won’t make his 3-year-old debut until a week before the traditional date of the Kentucky Derby. But owing to the Covid-19 crisis, the Kentucky Derby has been moved from May 2 to Sept. 5 and Eight Rings is back in the game.
“He wasn’t going to make it, but now it gives him a chance,” Baffert said.
Eight Rings is the 5-2 program favorite for the Bachelor, which will mark his first start since finishing a well-beaten sixth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. The son of Empire Maker had been poised for an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion 2-year-old male after a front-running six-length victory in the $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes (G1) Sept. 27 at Santa Anita.
Baffert said he considered launching Eight Rings’ 3-year-old campaign in the $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes at 1 1/8 miles April 11 before opting for the Bachelor, which has drawn a field of nine, including the Tom Amoss-trained speedster, Long Weekend.
“I didn’t feel he was ready for that, but he’s doing really well so I thought the Bachelor might be a good spot,” Baffert said. “I would have preferred like seven-eighths or a mile, but he’s in, he has a good post and he’s doing really well. He’s a really good horse and he worked really well there.”
A recent arrival from Southern California, Eight Rings recorded a 5-furlong bullet work from the gate (:59) April 17 under the watchful eye of Baffert’s top assistant, Jimmy Barnes. Eight Rings’ only true sprint race (5 ½ furlongs) resulted in a 6 ¼-length debut victory Aug. 4 at Del Mar.
“Jimmy said he’s doing great,” Baffert said. “The horse, he’s happy, his mind’s right. His mind wasn’t right for the Breeders’ Cup. We expect a big run from him. If he gets away clean, he should be really tough.”
Eight Rings is scheduled to break from post 7 under Joel Rosario and carry equal top weight of 119 pounds. The early 3-1 second choice is Long Weekend, who exits a sparkling 4 ¾-length gate-to-wire victory in the $90,000 Gazebo Stakes March 21. Long Weekend (3 for 4 overall) has led at every point of call in his victories. The Majesticperfection colt recorded the most lopsided victory since the Gazebo was inaugurated in 2012.
Long Weekend is scheduled to break from post 9 under Joe Talamo and carry 119 pounds.
“He’s very fast and he’s very, very good from the gate,” Amoss said. “I don’t really know what Eight Rings is going to do out of the gate. My guess is, not having run since November and being pretty fresh, he’s going to show speed. That’s my guess. And he is the other speed in the race, in my opinion. Joe’s going to have to put his thinking cap on and decide what he wants to do against whatever that horse does out of the gate. The advantage we have is be able to look over to our inside watching as we leave the gate, and I think our plan will be made from there. But, certainly, we’re going to be prominent early, if not on the lead.”
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen is scheduled to send out Gazebo runner-up Little Menace and Echo Town, a sharp entry-level allowance winner March 13.
“It looks like a pretty solid bunch,” Baffert said.
The Bachelor field from the rail out: Little Menace, Stewart Elliott to ride, 119 pounds, 4-1 on the morning line; Beau Oxy, Alex Canchari, 117, 20-1; Echo Town, Ricardo Santana Jr., 119, 9-2; Ginobili, David Cohen, 117, 6-1; Lykan, Tyler Baze, 119, 8-1; Liam’s Pride, Martin Garcia, 117, 20-1; Eight Rings, Joel Rosario, 119, 5-2; Sir Rick, Orlando Mojica, 119, 30-1; and Long Weekend, Joe Talamo, 119, 3-1.
Sir Rick, a supplemental nominee, will be adding blinkers for trainer Robertino Diodoro. Ginobili worked 5 furlongs in 1:02 Friday morning for trainer Richard Baltas, who said earlier this month that he was considering running the colt long.