Florida-bred Gelding Wins First Graded Stakes


Florida-bred Baby Yoda once again displayed his affinity for Saratoga, improving his record at the Spa to four wins in six starts with a commanding six-length victory in the Grade 2 True North presented by F.W. Webb Saturday. With Eric Cancel aboard, the 6-year-old gelding won his first graded stakes against six other 4-year-olds and older who went six-and-a-half furlongs in the $350,000 contest.

“He likes this racetrack,” trainer Bill Mott said. “He’s done his best running up here. I was a little surprised he was as close as he was. I thought there was maybe a little more speed in the race than that, but he broke well and he put himself right there. He didn’t like the Gulfstream track [over the winter]. He likes it here. He’s just like old men. They get better with time.”

Baby Yoda also built on the recent success by Florida-breds in the True North, joining winners Imperial Hint in 2018 and Firenze Fire in 2020-’21. Florida-breds Benny the Bull (2008), Shake You Down (2003), Gold Beauty (1993) and Moleolus (1979) also won the True North.

Breaking from the outside post seven, Baby Yoda started quickly with Gun It to his inside as those two sprinted clear of Rotknee in third with Nintypercentmaddie also close from post one. Gun It was a length in front of Baby Yoda heading into the far turn after a :21.94 first quarter as Rotknee began to gain on the two leaders while three wide.

Baby Yoda, Rotknee and Gun It were three across the track through a half-mile in :44.04 when Cancel began to cue the Florida-bred gelding at the top of the stretch. Baby Yoda hastened away from the field and was five lengths in front past the eighth pole as Rotknee continued to give chase from five lengths back.

Baby Yoda went past the finish line six length in front of a rallying Ninetypercentmaddie in second in a final time of 1:14.62 on the fast track. Gun Pilot, the 3-5 favorite, got up for third followed by Rotknee, Twenty Four, Gun It and Accretive in that order.

“I just tried to sit a patient trip; I had a perfect post for that and I just sat the perfect trip and it worked out well,” Cancel said. “I didn’t want him to get in his way. I wanted to keep him as smooth as possible and that is how it went. He was very comfortable where he was and when I asked him, he just responded.

“I had a lot of horse. I was just waiting,” Cancel added. “I didn’t want to move early, but at the same time, I knew that if they came up to him, he was going to respond, because he was very comfortable doing it.”

Owned by Pantofel Stable LLC, Wachtel Stable, Gary Barber and Jerold L. Zaro, Baby Yoda paid $20.40 to win.

It was the second straight win for Baby Yoda, who won an upper level, $80,000 optional claiming during the Belmont at Big A meet going seven furlongs on May 3.

He is still remembered by many Saratoga fans for winning a first condition allowance by four-and-a-half lengths there in September of 2021, producing a 114 Beyer Speed Figure. That came after he won a $50,000 starter allowance there in July of that year. He other Saratoga score was in a second condition, $62,500 optional claiming in July of 2022.

“He’s been a superstar for us since day one,” Adam Wachtel said. “He won his first few races for us here at Saratoga and he loves it here, as you can just see. Bill [Mott] felt pretty confident that he would run his race today. Whether that was going to be good enough against a pretty good field was hard to know. But clearly he was ready enough for the task. I’d like to keep running him here at Saratoga. It’s his favorite track. I guess we’ll have to consider the stakes here off this kind of performance.”

His career record now stands at nine wins, four second and four thirds in 25 starts and the True North first-place check of $192,500 pushes in earnings of $837,220.

He is by Prospective out of More Than Speed, by More Than Ready and was bred in Florida by Kathleen Amaya, Alexandro Centofanti and Raffaele Centofanti. More Than Speed has three starters, all winners, with Baby Yoda as her only stakes winner. She has a weanling colt by Charlatan.

Return to the June 8 issue of Wire to Wire