Bob Baffert is one of America’s outstanding trainer’s, having tasted huge success in the American Classics, along with holding an enviable record in the Breeders’ Cup.
Brought up on the family farm in Arizona, Baffert was just 10 when he started racing Quarter Horses purchased by his father. The seed was sown, and as a teenager he worked for $100 a day in racing events on the outskirts of his home town.
By the age of 20, he had progressed to training horses, and gained quite a reputation. In the 1980s, Baffert moved to California, and his involvement with Thoroughbreds began. He got his first big break in 1992, when Thirty Slews won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Baffert has landed a host of Classics since capturing his first in 1997, when training Silver Charm to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. He came so close to securing the Triple Crown, when just touched off by half a length in the Belmont. Baffert was to suffer similar frustration a year later when Real Quiet took the opening pair of Classics before going down agonisingly in the Belmont Stakes by a nose.
He finally captured the Belmont in 2001 with the outstanding chestnut colt Point Given. The three-year-old had previously won the Preakness, but failed to land the Kentucky Derby when only fifth. He concluded the campaign with victory in the Travers Stakes, making it nine wins from 13 career starts, earning a staggering $3,968,500.
Then followed a quiet spell for the trainer with regards to the Classics, though Baffert continued his love-affair with the Breeders’ Cup. In 2007 he captured the Sprint and the Juvenile Fillies, whilst a year later again landing the Sprint along with the Juvenile.
But it was in 2015 that the handler finally achieved the Triple Crown dream. American Pharoah was bred in Kentucky by his owner, Ahmed Zayat. He became Champion two-year-old in 2014, and a year later swept all before him, completing an incredible season with victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He became the first horse to complete the Triple Crown for 37 years, and during an incredible career earned $8,650,300.
This weekend Baffert hopes to taste further success in the Breeders’ Cup at his local track, Santa Anita Park. His stables are just a short stroll from the racecourse, and his team of thoroughbreds work at the track daily. He has a powerful team primed to take on all-comers, and the betting suggests he has every chance of landing a valuable prize or two.
California Chrome is thought by many to be the ‘nap’ of the meeting, but in Arrogate, Baffert has a worthy challenger for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with the trainer looking to win the event for the third time in a row. His three-year-old stormed to victory in the Travers Stakes, looking exceptional, and breaking the track record in the process. He did his final piece of work yesterday at the Santa Anita track, and a relieved Baffert said: “He went nice. It was good to get it out of the way. I was a bit tense today. He's a beautiful-moving horse, but he still has to run against California Chrome.”
Though Arrogate looks to have a huge chance, it’s Dortmund that appears to be Baffert’s best hope of Breeders’ Cup glory. He is a short-priced favourite to take the Dirt Mile, and chased home California Chrome last time at Santa Anita. That was over nine furlongs, and the mile looks ideal for this classy colt. He’s five from six at the California track, and will take some stopping.
Baffert has a terrific record in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and has another great chance of success with the four-year-old Lord Nelson. The winner of three Grade 1s already this summer, he arrives off the back of an impressive win in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes in October. Baffert also has three-year-old Drefong in the race. With only five career starts to his name, he will be taking on older horses for the first time, but is another Grade 1 winner, having won in Saratoga back in August.
Despite achieving so much over the years, the drive to succeed shows no sign of diminishing. This looks sure to prove an exciting Breeders’ Cup for Baffert and his team.