West Coast Conquers East in 2017 PA Derby
On the greatest day of racing in the history of the Keystone state, California invader West Coast reeled off his fifth straight and second career Grade 1 victory with an easy 7 1/4-length score in the $1,000,000 Pennsylvania Derby. It was the first year that the Derby would be contested as a Grade 1. The bay colt also captured the prestigious Travers Stakes (G1) in August.
“This horse is just getting better and better,” said trainer Bob Baffert, who saddled his second Pennsylvania Derby winner. “We thought he would run a big race . . . He’s just learning how to run. To have a three-year-old this time of year, with the way he won the Travers, and now winning this race, he is going to be a horse to reckon with.”
West Coast was bred for greatness: the son of Flatter, out of the 2000 Eclipse Award Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Caressing sold for $425,000 as a yearling. However, it took until his three-year-old season before he was able to get rolling for owners Gary and Mary West. He did not debut until February of this year but has never finished worst than second in eight starts. He was briefly on the Triple Crown trail while finishing second in the G3 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes, but his connections wisely chose to take it easy with their promising colt and instead entered him in an allowance event at Santa Anita Park for his next race. West Coast has not lost a race since then.
“He is a really good horse,” noted rider Mike Smith. “He is just better than (the competition) right now, as far as three-year-olds go.”
Finishing second was millionaire Irap, who arrived a month early. The handsome colt became a familiar face each morning and quickly became a “hometown” favorite. Unfortunately, Irap took a bad step just before the wire and was immediately pulled up by jockey Mario Gutierrez. Veterinary staff jumped into action and he underwent emergency surgery at New Bolton Center to repair several fractured sesamoids. However, by October 20th, severe laminitis had set in and Irap’s connections sadly had no choice but to euthanize their prized colt.
“(Irap) developed into a top racehorse who carried himself with tremendous dignity and a level of class that is rare,” said owners Paul and Zillah Reddam. “We count ourselves lucky to have been part of his life for an all too brief time.”
In the meantime, West Coast has returned to California and is working lights out towards the Breeders’ Cup Classic, to be contested at Del Mar for the first time. Trainer Bob Baffert hopes to emulate his 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern, who also used the Pennsylvania Derby as a stepping stone for the Classic.