Mike Pegram and Dennis Cardoza's Shakin It Up sliced between foes and drove to a one-length decision in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,250 San Vicente at Santa Anita, handing Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his eighth victory in the seven-furlong affair for sophomores. At the same time, the Triple Crown nominee became the first graded winner sired by champion sprinter Midnight Lute, himself a former Baffert trainee.
Shakin It Up, a hard-luck third in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue when last seen on Thanksgiving Day, was one of a trio of Baffert entrants. He went off as the second choice at 2-1, with stablemate Belvin slightly preferred at 9-5, and Baffert's third entrant, War Academy, a tepid 6-1 fourth choice in the six-horse field.
Reunited Sunday with David Flores, who had ridden him to his impressive maiden triumph two starts back, Shakin It Up sat behind the early speed. The rail-drawn Belvin vied with Caballo del Cielo through an opening quarter in :22 4/5, and was a half-length up by the time he reached the half in :45 3/5. Mudflats ranged up briefly into an outside contending position on the far turn, while Shakin It Up was having to bide his time along the inside for running room.
There was to be no repeat, however, of his problematic passage in the Hollywood Prevue. As Caballo del Cielo drifted out swinging into the stretch, Shakin It Up got the crucial split that Flores had patiently awaited, and he took it.
But once drawing up between Belvin and Caballo del Cielo, Shakin It Up did not immediately stamp his authority. The short field was fanned out across the track, nearly all in with a chance, and the deep-closing Treasury Bill looming boldly widest of all.
Then, inside the final furlong, Shakin It Up began to rev up. Lengthening stride, he pulled clear to stop the teletimer in 1:22 2/5 on the fast track and returned $6.40, $3.80 and $2.80.
"It reminds me of the good ol' days," Flores said. "It brings me back to a time when I was riding these kind of horses, and it's good to be back on a horse like this.
"He put me in a spot I wasn't expecting. He put me in the race right away, so I just had to be patient and wait for the pocket to open, and that's pretty much what happened. When I asked him to go he accelerated, a tremendous acceleration."
Flores has faith in Shakin It Up's capacity to go a distance -- even the classic distance.
"I say a mile and a quarter -- that will be (Bob) Baffert's job," Flores said. "All I have to do is do the right thing on the horse when I get on him. I want to thank Bob and Mike Pegram and all the rest of the crew; it's amazing to be on a horse like this.
"That's my dream that I'm chasing every day (to ride a Derby horse). I still go to the mountains to keep myself in great shape because you never know when it's going to come. You have to be prepared for a horse like this."
"He's (David Flores) done well with him," Baffert said, "and I was sort of mad at myself for taking him off (in the Hollywood Prevue, when Martin Garcia was given the call). I was trying to help Martin out a little bit, but I put David back on and he gets along with him pretty well.
"I really don't know (what race might be next). He was sort of fresh today. I didn't really have him super-cranked up for the race, but we've always thought highly of him, so we'll just find something for him, I don't know.
"We've always thought this was a very good horse. It was a very good race -- it was a tough race," Baffert said.
Treasury Bill was a strong second in an effort that delighted trainer Ron Ellis. The Lemon Drop Kid colt, who is bred to relish two turns, will now stretch out for the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn March 16.
Unlike the San Vicente, which was not a scoring race on the new Kentucky Derby points system, the Rebel is part of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series worth 50 points to the winner.
"He started to pull Joe (Talamo) a little earlier than I thought he would down the backside," Ellis said of Treasury Bill's performance in the San Vicente. "He got up a little bit closer and got forced a bit wide, but he ran hard, he ran game. I didn't really think he could compete with these kind of horses going seven furlongs, so I'm very happy.
"The plan, timing wise, was a month from now, go to the Rebel at Oaklawn. I think we might go there. The Wests (owners Gary and Mary) have Flashback (Baffert's top three-year-old) who will run in the races here (the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 9), so they don't want to hook them up together. So the plan is to go to the Rebel."
Caballo del Cielo checked in another three-quarters of a length back in third, followed by War Academy, Mudflats and Belvin. The entire field was separated by fewer than three lengths at the wire.
Shakin It Up was flattering the form of stablemate Super Ninety Nine, the 7-5 morning-line favorite in Monday's Grade 3 Southwest at Oaklawn. Runner-up to Super Ninety Nine in their mutual debut over the San Vicente track and trip October 7, Shakin It Up crushed an October 27 maiden by 4 1/2 lengths. He tried stakes company for the first time in the Hollywood Prevue, where he came around horses belatedly and was finishing fastest of all in third, just a neck back of second-placer Super Ninety Nine.
Shakin It Up lost some training time in January, reportedly because of a foot abscess, but he is clearly back in business now. His resume now stands at 4-2-1-1, $139,600.
Bred by Pegram in Kentucky, Shakin It Up is the second registered foal from the unraced mare Silver Bullet Moon, a daughter of two Baffert stars -- champion Vindication and Hall of Famer Silverbulletday. A two-time Eclipse Award winner, Silverbulletday earned more than $3 million while capturing such Grade 1 events as the 1998 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and 1999 Kentucky Oaks, Alabama, Ashland and Gazelle. She has produced the stakes-placed Tice and factors as the granddam of stakes winner Crisis of Spirit and the stakes-placed Mile High Magic.
Shakin It Up is closely related to stablemate Govenor Charlie, a fellow Triple Crown nominee who broke his maiden for Baffert and Pegram in Sunday's 5TH race at Santa Anita. Govenor Charlie is also by Midnight Lute and out of another daughter of Silverbulletday, Silverbulletway.
Baffert commented on Midnight Lute's emergence as a sire, and explained why the two-time Breeders' Cup Sprint winner shouldn't be typecast as a speed influence.
"Early on, (Midnight Lute) had an infection in his throat. That's why his throat went bad. He would have run all day, Midnight Lute," the Hall of Famer noted. "Unfortunately, he had 60 percent air capacity, but all his foals breathe fine. With him it was probably because he was so big, but it's pretty encouraging, it's pretty exciting."
Silverbulletday hails from the family of Grade 1 winners Forest Secrets, Fourty Niners Son and Cindy's Hero. Further back, one finds another Hall of Famer in Arts and Letters, the runner-up in the 1969 Kentucky Derby and Preakness who went on to conquer the Belmont Stakes, Metropolitan Handicap, Travers, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup.