Kentucky Derby contender profile: Azul Coast

February 17th, 2020

An up-and-coming trainer named Bob Baffert saddled an improving colt named Cavonnier to win the El Camino Real Derby in 1996. Cavonnier went on to become Baffert’s first starter in the coveted Kentucky Derby (G1), and he finished second by a nose under the twin spires.

Fast forward to Feb. 15, 2020, and Baffert—with five Kentucky Derby victories under his belt—returned to the El Camino Real Derby winner’s circle with Azul Coast. Whether this lightly raced colt can one-up Cavonnier with a victory at Churchill Downs remains to be seen, but when Baffert has a talented 3-year-old in his barn, seemingly anything is possible.

Baffert’s longtime clients Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman purchased Azul Coast for $320,000 as a yearling. A son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, out of the graded stakes-winning turf miler Sky Treasure, Azul Coast has the pedigree to be successful running two turns and didn’t even bother with a sprint debut. He started out in a 1-mile maiden special weight race at Los Alamitos.

Baffert rarely debuts his best prospects running two turns, but Azul Coast looked the part at Los Alamitos. Reserved in last place early on, the bay colt swooped past his rivals with a decisive rally in the homestretch and drew off to win by four lengths.

Azul Coast joined the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a late-charging runner-up effort behind stablemate Authentic in the Jan. 4 Sham (G3) at Santa Anita, a promising performance for that set the stage for his breakthrough success in the El Camino Real at Golden Gate Fields.

Despite the stretch out to 1 1/8 miles and tackling a synthetic track for the first time, Azul Coast fired off a career-best effort at Golden Gate Fields. Azul Coast showed improved tactical speed, raced in fourth in the early going, and utilized his stamina to sprint the final furlong in :12.09 and win by 1 1/4 lengths.

Azul Coast isn’t your typical Baffert-trained sophomore star. Baffert’s top runners are known for their brilliance and abundant early speed. Stretch runners like Azul Coast have been fewer and farther between.

But stamina doesn’t appear to be a question mark for Azul Coast, who was bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock. Since stamina is the key to negotiating 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May, Azul Coast has a head start on many of his potential Derby rivals.