Baffert Runners Look Tough in Bob Hope Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

November 14th, 2018

If Del Mar ever decides to rename the $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes (gr. III), all they would really have to do is change “Hope” to “Baffert” and it would be perfectly understandable, considering how thoroughly the Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has dominated the Bob Hope.

Through the years, Baffert has won this seven-furlong sprint for two-year-olds eight times, including four times since 2011—a remarkable streak when you consider that Baffert didn’t even have a starter in 2013 or 2014.

Baffert will send out two starters in search of a ninth Bob Hope victory, though determining which is more likely to prevail could be something of a guessing game. #1 Metropol won his debut sprinting 6 ½ furlongs at Santa Anita on October 8th, rallying from a pace-tracking position to win by three-quarters of a length with an 85 BRIS speed figure, while #3 Mucho Gusto won a six-furlong event at Los Alamitos on September 20th by four lengths while leading from start to finish, earning a 90 BRIS speed figure.

If forced to choose between them, I would side with Mucho Gusto, who showed significantly more early speed in his debut than Metropol did in his, which could give Mucho Gusto a tactical advantage on Saturday. Mucho Gusto has also drawn outside of Metropol, another subtle advantage since Metropol could potentially be in for a tricky trip from post one, and the fact that Mucho Gusto brought a hefty $625,000 at auction (compared to $200,000 for Metropol) further suggests that Mucho Gusto might be the more highly-regarded runner.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Baffert sweeps the exacta in the Bob Hope, though respect must also be given to #6 Sparky Ville, a promising son of Candy Ride trained by Jeff Bonde. Sparky Ville is a stakes-experienced colt who has already competed against Game Winner and Instagrand (the top two names on my Kentucky Derby Top 10), and last time out he posted a 94 BRIS speed figure while winning the Sunny Slope Stakes at Santa Anita over #4 Savagery. There’s a fair amount of early speed in the Bob Hope field, so Sparky Ville’s late-running style could serve him well here.

Since there are only seven horses in this race, and since the Baffert runners figure to be short prices, I’ll limit my plays to include only Mucho Gusto, Metropol, and Sparky Ville. For my main bet, I’ll key Mucho Gusto in a couple of large exactas, and I’ll also play him on top of a narrow trifecta with Metropol and Sparky Ville underneath:

Update: Due to the scratch of Metropol, I will instead bet a cold Mucho Gusto/Sparky Ville exacta while adding #2 Extra Hope and #4 Savagery to the bottom of a trifecta:

$10 exacta: 3 with 6 ($10) $5 trifecta: 3 with 6 with 2,4 ($10)

Good luck!