Spotlight: Bob Baffert

“You try to get excited, but it's not healthy.You can't get excited until you get to this time of year.”-Bob Baffert

The Derby Post is happy to spotlight 2007 hall of fame inductee, trainer and Kentucky Derby winner, Bob Baffert.  Still operating on the West Coast, Baffert has worked his way to becoming a California star.  With his Kentucky Derby success and years of hard work, Bob has given an awful lot to the sport and racing industry.  He is back on the trail again this year, most notably, with Jaycito and The Factor along with potential sleeper, Awesome Patriot.  I’ve been known to side with Baffert on Derby Day before (Lookin at Lucky, PioneeroftheNile, Congaree) so bet on me taking a long careful look at this year’s prospects. 

Raised on a ranch in Southern Arizona, Bob’s initial dreams of horse racing lied directly in the saddle.  After learning to gallop horses,  he set his sights on becoming a jockey.  Although he enjoyed success, the task of staying below weight was too much to ask.  However, his passion for the sport and horses remained and he advanced on to becoming a trainer.  After graduating from the Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona he began the next phase of his career in Quarter Horse Racing.  Similiar to the majority of sport icons, success at a single level wasn’t enough and in the early ’90’s Bob Baffert officially transitioned into Thoroughbred Racing.

Baffert first made news in ’92 when his horse Thirty Slews won the Breeders Cup Sprint.  So, he was up and running and it wasn’t long before he found himself on the verge of winning the Run for the Roses.  In ’96 he entered onto the Kentucky Derby stage with his first derby starter.  Cavonnier looked like a winner taking the lead at the top of the stretch but was tracked down and clipped by a nose at the wire.  As any competitor would, Baffert returned to Churchill Downs in ’97 ready to play.  What ensued was derby triumph with Silver Charm followed by Real Quiet in ’98.  Both years he also won the Preakness Stakes becoming the only trainer in history to win the first two jewels of the triple crown in back to back years.  In 2002, Baffert reappeared in the winners circle with surprise winner War Emblem @ 21-1 odds.  A Preakness Stakes winner as well, War Emblem still stands today as the only winner to come from the Illinois Derby here in Chicago.  Although the bids for the triple crown came up just short, all three years were spectacular to watch. 

At this time of year you should see why so many people will be looking to his barn and wondering if number 4 is on the way.  As with any accomplished trainer, the attention is well deserved.  We wish him the best of luck this year on the trail to the derby and look for him to continue to bring his California style, personality and excitement to the game. 

Written by: Little Brink 

**Off the Derby Trail Baffert has been hard at work and has a very BIG weekend upcoming with four starters in Saturday’s $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap.  That’s right 4 horses: First Dude, Game On Dude, Spurrier and Tweebster.  Will be an interesting race, look forward to seeing how this one plays out.

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