Improbable was the favorite when he stepped into the starting gates for the 2019 Kentucky Derby. He had been one of the top horses on the Derby trail as an undefeated two-year old who won the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and as a three-year old with runner-up finishes in the Rebel Stakes (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1). The late scratch of Omaha Beach, who had beaten Improbable to the wire by just ¾ of a length in their final Derby prep, propelled Improbable to the top of racing fan’s rankings.
But Improbable didn’t win the Derby, he finished fourth. He tried again in the Preakness where he was again made the favorite, but performed even worse - ultimately finishing in sixth place. It took three months for Bob Baffert to put Improbable back in the races after that tough defeat, but he did win his comeback in the Shared Belief Stakes with ease.
It seemed like things could be looking up for the three-year old. He was sent to Parx Racing for the Pennsylvania Derby where he was again made the favorite, but finished fourth after a poor start. Nevertheless, he went back home to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). This time he performed as bettors expected him to, crossing the wire a well beaten fifth.
There were murmurs that Improbable’s best days could be behind him. He had lost every graded stakes race he had run in since he began his three-year old season. Many times he had been made the favorite, only to disappoint his supporters with some off performances. Still, his connections and his die-hard fans knew that he was capable of more than what he had been showing on the racetrack.
Improbable didn’t race for five months after the Breeders’ Cup. Instead he was given time to rest and mature into a four-year old. By the time he returned to training, he was looking better and stronger than ever. The flashy chestnut colt made his seasonal debut in the Oaklawn Mile, a listed stakes race at Oaklawn Park.
Though the race wasn’t graded, it had attracted a competitive field of horses like Tom’s d’Etat, Bankit, and Pioneer Spirit. Improbable had the lead and was moving away from the field when they hit the top of the stretch, but was just narrowly beaten by the fast-closing race-favorite Tom’s d’Etat.
Improbable had still been beaten, but he had run a much better race than he had the previous year. With that strong race under his belt, his connections decided to run him in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) next. He awarded their faith in him with a sensational victory, crossing the wire 3 ¼ lengths in front.
It was the colt’s first graded stakes victory since he was two-years old. It was a long wait, but it had finally paid off.
Following his great victory at Santa Anita Park, Improbable was shipped to the opposite coast for the Whitney Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. He was to face top older horse Tom’s d’Etat once more, as well as Travers Stakes winner Code of Honor and the always-improving By My Standards.
Improbable had never won outside of California and had never even raced in New York, so he was sent off as the third-choice in a field of five horses. Though Improbable played out his usual antics in the starting gates, it was the favorite Tom’s d’Etat that broke poorly. Improbable shot out of the gate cleanly and smoothly even after rearing up inside the gates while Tom’s d’Etat stumbled to his knees. The Baffert trained colt was able to sit just behind Mr. Buff, who was setting a slow pace.
Improbable overtook Mr. Buff when the field hit the top of the stretch and opened up an easy lead to win by three lengths. That made two Grade 1 wins a row for Improbable and garunteed him a spot in the starting gates for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) this year at Keeneland. It was also owner WinStar Farm’s first win in the Whitney Stakes.
"Improbable showed up today. It was very impressive,” Bob Baffert told BloodHorse. “He's put it all together. He's one of the prettiest-moving horses you'll see, and he was in a great rhythm today.”
Things are finally coming together for Improbable and his owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, and SF Racing. He is getting better with every day that passes by. At one point he looked out of his element at the top level of competition, now he is thriving. Improbable serves as a great testament for what can be possible with just a little bit of patience and a lot of dedication.
The four-year old son of City Zip out of the winning A.P. Indy mare Rare Event has earned his connections more than $1.5 million and it looks like he is well on his way to the Breeders’ Cup. Maybe this could be the year that he gets his revenge for his fifth place finish last year.
Improbable's fans and the rest of the horse racing community will be waiting anxiously to see how the rest of his career pans out.
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