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Bob Baffert

Derby Trainer Profile

4/28/10

Bob Baffert has done just about everything you could hope to do as a trainer. He has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer three times in 1997, 1998, and 1999. He has won an amazing seven Breeder’s Cup races winning the BC Sprint three times, the BC Juvenile twice and the BC Juvenile Fillies twice. He even has had great success in international racing winning the world’s richest race the Dubai World Cup twice, but the one thing that Big Race Bob will be remembered for is his success and heartbreaks in the Triple Crown.

Bob Baffert made the switch from quarter horses to thoroughbreds in 1991, and by 1996 he had his first Derby starter. Since 1996 he has saddled 18 horses in the Run for the Roses winning it three times with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, and War Emblem in 2002. He also has two 2nd place finishes with Cavonnier in 1996 and Pioneerof the Nile in 2009, and two 3rd place finishes with Indian Charlie in 1998 and Congaree in 2001. He had incredible success from the start in 1996 to 2002 where he got his last win. In that stretch he had at least one starter in the Derby every year and saddled 12 horses. His record with those 12 is 3 wins 1 place and 2 shows. Not only that, he only had two horses in that span that didn’t finish in the top half of the Derby. Since 2002 he has not had the same type of success.

Besides Pioneer of the Nile and his 2nd place finish his best finish was 9th in 2006 with Point Determined, and he also missed the Derby 3 times. (2004, 2007, 2008) For whatever reason he hasn’t had the same type of success in the 2nd half of his Derby career that he had in the 1st half. One factor that played a role in his struggles is he lost two of his top owners in Bob Lewis and Prince Ahmed bin Salman (Thoroughbred Corp) who both passed away. Baffert seems like he has his stable reloaded, and if Pioneerof the Nile’s Derby performance and Looking At Lucky’s performance leading up to this year’s Derby is any indication for what’s to come it looks like Baffert is going to once again be a force in the Kentucky Derby.

There is no one better then Bob Baffert when it comes to knowing what it takes to get a young 3 yr old ready for the Kentucky Derby, and once again he has done a great job getting his two colts ready for the first Saturday in May. Conveyance is a son of Indian Charlie, who Baffert saddled in the Derby back in 1998, and much like his sire he has good early speed, but also it looks like he is going to have his sire’s distance limitations also. In the 1998 Derby Indian Charlie was the one coming into the Derby with all the hype after just winning the Santa Anita Derby. He ended up being the favorite in the race, but it was Baffert’s other horse Real Quiet who got the job done that year.

Fast forward to 2010 its Looking At Lucky who is coming in with all the hype and should be the post time favorite and Conveyance is the one getting overlooked. Could history repeat itself this year for the Baffert stable? It is the Derby so anything is possible, but it looks more likely that Conveyance job will be to ensure a hot early pace for the “Franchise” horse in the Baffert barn. (Although if we do see history repeat itself it’s only fitting that it would be a son of Indian Charlie who does it.)

Baffert has had the Kentucky Derby in the back of his mind for Looking At Lucky for a very long time, and he has trained him accordingly. If you look back at Baffert’s Derby winners he has trained them all the same. He understands that the Triple Crown is the main goal so he sets his horses up to come into the Kentucky Derby ready for a peak performance. Both Real Quiet and Looking At Lucky had extensive 2 yr old campaigns and then had two major preps before the Derby. Real Quiet used the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby and Looking At Lucky used the Rebel and the Santa Anita Derby. Silver Charm was only able to get three starts as a 2 yr old, so Baffert gave him a start going 7 furlongs in the San Vicente before his two major preps the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby. Another similarity that helps explain Baffert’s training methods for getting his horses ready for a peak effort is his horses performances in their final preps. All three horses lost in their final prep race the Santa Anita Derby, but both Real Quiet and Silver Charm used that effort to move forward and capture the Kentucky Derby.

We believe there is a reason why Baffert has been so excited about Lookin At Lucky since early in his 2 yr old season, and it’s because he sees another Real Quiet or Silver Charm when he watches Lookin At Lucky. Baffert has not had the same success recently in the Kentucky Derby that he did early in his career, but it looks like things are starting to move in the right direction. Just like losing that first Derby by a nose to Grindstone made him hungry to get back to the Derby to win it, we believe that cold streak he had starting in 2003 has made him hungrier to get back to where he was in the peak of his Triple Crown career. If history has shown us one thing its that when Baffert has a horse in the Derby you better pay attention to it, and when he suffers a heartbreak in his career it is usually followed by a triumph.
 

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