Baffert again the trainer to beat at Churchill Downs


Another Triple Crown run for Baffert?

Bob Baffert

It’s the first Saturday in May and Bob Baffert again has multiple contenders in a major stakes race.

So what else is new?

Indeed, as the horses enter the gate at Churchill Downs in Louisville for the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby Saturday, May 4, on ABC, the white-haired trainer from Nogales, Ariz., who has saddled numerous Triple Crown Thoroughbreds in his half-century in racing could have as many as four in this race: Improbable, Game Winner, Roadster and Mucho Gusto. And those in the know will tell you no one is better at getting a talented 3-year-old to peak at the optimal time than Baffert.

Of course, this is all well-trod ground for the 66-year-old. He’s been bringing horses to the three races that make up the Triple Crown – the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes – since 1996 and has 15 wins to show for it, including three each for his two Triple Crown champions American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018). Those are pretty impressive accomplishments in an era that didn’t have a Triple Crown champ for 37 years.

This year, Improbable, Game Winner and Richard Mandella’s Omaha Beach (at this writing) are considered the three horses with the most Triple Crown potential. But when a horse is faced with a field of 20 (such as in the Derby), a short layoff (the Preakness) and a 1 1/2 mile distance (the Belmont) over a five-week schedule – and contend with fresh horses in the last two races – those expectations can evaporate in a hurry.

Which is why the Triple Crown is considered by some to be the most grueling gauntlet in all of sports.


Bob Baffert

Full name: Robert A. Baffert

Date of birth: Jan. 13, 1953

Birthplace: Nogales, Ariz.

Education: Graduated from the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program with a Bachelor of Science degree

Family: Lives in California with wife Jill, a former TV reporter; five children

Career wins: more than 2,800

Major victories: Kentucky Derby (1997, 1998, 2002, 2015, 2018), Preakness Stakes (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2010, 2015, 2018), Belmont Stakes (2001, 2015, 2018), Triple Crown (2015, 2018), Breeders’ Cup Classic (2014, 2015, 2016), Dubai World Cup (1998, 2001, 2017), Dubai Golden Shaheen (2015)

Awards: Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer (1997, 1998, 1999, 2015), Champion Trainer by earnings (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001), American Horse of the Year (2001, 2015), U.S. Racing Hall of Fame inductee (2009)

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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