'He’s A Little Bit Of A Folk Hero': Baby Yoda Will Try For Elusive First Stakes Win In Cigar Mile - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘He’s A Little Bit Of A Folk Hero’: Baby Yoda Will Try For Elusive First Stakes Win In Cigar Mile

Baby Yoda wins an allowance-optional claiming race by 10 3/4 lengths Oct. 7 at the Belmont at the Big A meet

Seven-time winner and multiple graded stakes placed Baby Yoda will pursue his first stakes triumph in Saturday's $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct Racetrack, owner Adam Wachtel said.

Owned by Wachtel Stable in partnership with Pantofel Stable, Gary Barber and Jerry Zaro and trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Baby Yoda was most recently a close second as the favorite in the Kelso Handicap (G2) on October 29 at Belmont at the Big A. He set a moderate tempo on the backstretch before being passed up by upset winner and probable returning rival Double Crown inside the sixteenth pole.

A four-time winner of eight starts this season, the 4-year-old Florida-bred Prospective gelding defeated starter-allowance company going six furlongs twice in Kentucky at the beginning of the year before securing allowance optional-claiming scores on the NYRA circuit going seven furlongs and a one-turn mile, respectively. He was a narrowly beaten second in the Pelican at Tampa Bay Downs in his 2022 debut and was a distant second to Flightline in last year's Malibu (G1) at Santa Anita.

Overall, Baby Yoda has a 7-3-2 career line from 15 outings and $525,720 in earnings.

Baby Yoda worked a half-mile in :48.60 over the Belmont Park training track on Saturday.

“He's a little bit of a folk hero, but he's never won a stakes race,” Wachtel said. “He's come close a couple times, he finished second to Flightline in the Malibu. I would hope that we get some weight from some of these others. But so far, that's the plan. If he comes out of yesterday's work in good shape, we'll be there next Saturday.”

Baby Yoda is most well-known for recording a 114 Beyer Speed Figure at allowance level last September at Saratoga, defeating eventual Grade 1-winning stablemate Olympiad by 4 1/4 lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs.

“That was quite something. I came up that day on a last minute trip and I knew he was training well and I knew how good Olympiad was,” Wachtel recalled. “That was quite the extraordinary effort. The next morning, I was at the training track and other trainers that I knew were making comments about how good the horse was. He's been a really cool horse that's run in big races against big competition. We gave him a little class relief in Kentucky this spring running in some starter races, just trying to get his confidence back up.”

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