Horse Racing, like life itself, has lots of ups and downs. I’m pretty sure if you live on this earth you’ve had your fair share of both….I know I have… and I know for sure that Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has seen both also.
To tell you my ups and downs would probably bored you to death, so I’ll focus on Mr. Baffert.
The charismatic trainer exploded on to the racing scene in the mid 1990’s and all he’s done since is pump out champion after champion, major win after major win and Eclipse Award after Eclipse Award for both himself and his stable.
To list every single one of the major races he’s won would take far too much internet ink.
In fact, when I looked down the list I noticed, alphabetically, he’s won every single major race starting with the letter “A” (Arkansas Derby in 2012 Bodemeister and 2012 Apple Blossom with Plum Pretty) to the letter “Z” (The Zenyatta Stakes in 1998 with Magic Allure and again in 2007 with Tough Tiz’s Sis).
The list includes three Kentucky Derby wins (1997-Silver Charm, 1998- Real Quiet and 2002- War Emblem), an eye popping five Preakness wins (1997, Silver Charm, 1998- Real Quiet, 2001 Point Given, 2002 War Emblem and 2012– Lookin’ at Lucky) and one Belmont Stakes (Point Given-2001).
The list also includes three Breeders Cup Sprint wins, two Breeders Cup Juvenile Filly wins and two Breeders Cup Juvenile Colt wins as well.
Let’s not forget he’s won the world’s richest race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup, twice. (2001- Captain Steve, 1998- Silver Charm)
The last accolade I’ll mention is probably his biggest and best as he was inducted in Horse Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2009.
Now tack on three Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Trainer and four Leading Trainer by Earnings Awards and you have yourself quite a thoroughbred horse racing training career going.
On a personal note, he’s trained some the better horse I’ve seen in my 33 years of watching the sport. Lookin’ at Lucky, Silverbulletday and Point Given all stand out in my mind as horses that made me sit back in my chair and say “wow”.
Most trainers couldn’t do half of what he did in a lifetime.
However, 2012 has been a little different for the white haired (I understand he pays $200.00 for a haircut, which is far superior to the $14.00 I pay for mine) 59 year old.
It all started on March 12 when Baffert officially took highly touted Fed Biz off the Kentucky Derby trail with a “hind end problem.” Having to do that was disappointing I’m sure, but it would just be the tip of the iceberg for what the rest of the year would have in store.
Exactly two weeks after that announcement, Baffert flew to Dubai to attend 2012 Horse of the Year Candidate Game on Dude’s run in the Dubai World Cup and upon landing inDubai, Baffert took ill. With help from his wife Jill, Baffert was taken to a local hospital and was diagnosed with having a heart attack. He was quickly put into surgery and had three stents placed in two partial blocked arteries.
Baffert recovered slowly and returned home to California. Under doctors orders, he was told to change his lifestyle (eating, exercising, relax, have fun and “win a few more races”) but soon after arriving home he would suffer what is arguably the most frustrating series of defeats in Triple Crown history.
The wickedly fast Bodemeister, who was Baffert’s brightest star at that time, led to deep stretch in the Kentucky Derby in May but was run down by I’ll Have Another with just 150 yards left in the race.
Two weeks later, the Preakness would be even more frustrating as this time Bodemeister led until just 50 yards left in the race when, once again, I’ll Have Another ran him down and won.
After the two bitter defeats Baffert declared he had “had enough” of I’ll Have Another and was sending Bodemeister “home (to California) for some R & R”.
In the Belmont Stakes, and with Baffert sending Bodemeister home, he changed “weapons” and entered the talented but inexperienced Paynter in the 1 ½ mile classic.
Once again, Baffert’s charge led to deep stretch only to be collared late, this time, by Union Rags in the last several yards and lost yet another heart breaking race.
The following month (July) Bodemeister, who remained in light training, suffered nerve damage in one of his shoulders and had to be retired in the prime of him career.
I thought maybe Baffert’s luck was going to take a turn for the better this year when, after Bodemeister went down, Paytner, who ran so well in the Belmont Stakes, won the Haskell Invitational by an impressive 4 ½ lengths in which after the race Baffert declared Paytner a “serious racehorse”.
But as fate would have it at the end of August (and if you follow me) the only serious thing Paytner would be… is sick. The son of the gorgeous Awesome Again caught a virus that saw him spike a fever of 103, develop an infection from an IV and the beginnings of the life threatening disease laminitis. To this day, Paynter continues a daily fight for his life.
Just one week later, Baffert’s father and “hero” passed away at hisArizonahome.
Nicknamed “The Chief”, Bill Baffert was an obvious mentor to young Bob in the horse racing business. He was a rancher inNogales, Az. and used to race quarter horses on theArizonafair circuit, with Bob riding many of them during his teenage years.
No cause of death was announced but Baffert mentioned his father’s health had been “on the decline recently”.
As we move into October, let’s hope the rest of Baffert’s year will pass quietly. Let’s hope his luck will change for the better.
Of course, Baffert has had his share of luck in that past being he’s trained (in addition to the aforementioned horses above) Chilukki, Congaree, First Dude, Forestry, Indian Blessing, Midnight Lute, Midshipman, Misremembered, Pioneerof The Nile, Plum Pretty, The Factor, Vindication, and Zensational.
If there is a fitting end to such a tumultuous year, it would be Baffert winning the one race that has eluded him thru out his illustrious career….the Breeders Cup Classic. What better year than this year to win it because if he does? It would be for himself and close friend Bernie Schiappa, who is a part owner of Game On Dude.
With a death close to him and a near death experience this year, I’m sure winning a BC Classic would be just what the doctor ordered….literally.
Thanks for reading.