Taiba, who narrowly missed to Cyberknife in the Haskell (G1) last month, made amends with a rousing score in Saturday’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, the second Grade 1 victory for the 3-year-old Gun Runner colt.
Gun Runner had a Saturday that no sire has equaled in recent memory. In addition to Taiba’s win, he accounted for the $1 million Cotillion S. (G1) with Society, Echo Zulu making a triumphant return in the Dogwood S. (G3), Gunite dominating the $275,000 Harrods Creek S. at Churchill Downs, and Sixtythreecaliber winning the $160,000 Seneca S., also at Churchill. Cyberknife, who beat Taiba in the Haskell, was a gallant third to Taiba on Saturday as well.
Taiba, in post 8, hustled to the lead soon after the break, then settled back a bit as White Abarrio and Simplification were intent on getting to the front. That duo led the field through a half-mile in :47.21, with Taiba along the rail in fourth. The positions remain unchanged until midway on the turn, when Taiba made a bold four-wide move for the lead.
Taiba took over in upper stretch and was full of run for jockey Mike Smith as he easily held off the late charge of Zandon to win by three lengths in 1:48.67 for the 1 1/8-miles on a fast track.
“Gun Runner is an unbelievable sire and this guy looks more like Gun Runner than a lot of them,” said his trainer Bob Baffert. “I was just so excited watching it. I was not loving it on the backside, but once he tipped out it was like, ‘Wow! Look at this guy!’ We have such a great team and to get rewarded with a win like this makes it all worth it. Fantastic!”
“If all is good, we are going to point to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1),” added Baffert. That race is Nov. 5 at Keeneland.
Taiba is owned by Amr Zedan, who purchased the striking chestnut for $1.7 million out of the 2021 Fasig-Tipton March 2-year-old sale. The colt now has three wins in five starts, including the Santa Anita Derby (G1), and has earned $1,236,200.
Pedigree notes from the TDN
Taiba, bred by Bruce Ryan, is the lone foal to race out of Needmore Flattery, a mare that would have made E. F. Hutton proud. The Ohio-bred did it the hard way in her career, making 39 trips to the races from ages two to five for owner Bruce Ryan, resulting in 17 visits to the winner’s circle, 14 of those in state-bred stakes races, for earnings north of $732,000.