A Bob Baffert Kentucky Derby Trifecta? It Could Happen
Trainer Bob Baffert Discusses His Three Kentucky Derby Runners, Says Another Should be Favored
By Augusta Hosmer
It’s a dream and an enormous accomplishment for someone to bring a single horse to the Kentucky Derby (GI) once, but leave it Hall of Famer and to two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert to bring three this year alone, and all now occupy the shortest odds on the morning line after the shocking scratch of earl favorite Omaha Beach. If anyone can make the possibility of a Derby trifecta for the same trainer appear casual it’s Bob Baffert and that’s exactly the air he put off when we caught up with him Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.
Leaning up against the corner of his barn like he was on the cover of a rock album with boots and trademark sunglasses to match, Baffert looked his typical casual and confident self.
“The Baffert Three” — Game Winner, Improbable and Roadster — bring a ton of talent to the Derby field, this we know.
Eclipse Award-winner Game Winner took the American Pharoah Stakes (GI) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) as a juvenile, and has grown a lot since we last saw him under the Twin Spires. He also last year won the Del Mar Futurity (GI) over stablemate Roadster, who checked in third that day. Roadster returned the favor when he won the Santa Anita Derby (GI) a month ago, while Game Winner was runner-up that day. Improbable, the flashy chestnut son of City Zip, brings a win in the Los Alamitos Futurity (GI) to the table, as well as second-place finishes in both a division of the Rebel Stakes (GII) and Arkansas Derby (GI), and also previously defeated fellow Derby runners Country House and Gray Magician.
When Omaha Beach scratched on Wednesday morning, it was easy to believe this year’s Kentucky Derby became Baffert’s race to win.
“(Omaha Beach) was the horse to beat,” Baffert said. “I feel bad for his entire team.”
Regarding his own chances in the Derby, however, Baffert is very optimistic, the late scratch of the early favorite just reinforcing that confidence level.
“We’re happy with everything,” Baffert said. “It’s been a nice week (but) in terms of my being the new favorite and everything… Oh boy, here we go.
“No, I don’t think (the scratches) changes the race. There’s still a lot of speed in there.”
Baffert doesn’t necessarily agree with the new morning line odds, though. Game Winner dropped from 5-1 to 9-2 and his other two both went from 6-1 to 5-1, which is fine with the conditioner except he’s not so sure any of his should be the favorite.
“I think Maximum Security should be the favorite, and he’s the horse nobody talks about,” Baffert said of the early 10-1 shot. “That’s the horse that I would worry about. He’s a good horse. He won the Florida Derby. You need to be at his barn talking to him.”
“Go put some pressure on Jason, will you?” he said with a laugh.
Though Baffert has become somewhat famous at the track for his calm and reserved nature even while experiencing the highest of highs in racing, that’s not to say he hasn’t let nerves get to him on occasion. He was, however, quick to offer some advice for those who are new to the Derby, and also plans to follow his own advice.
“Just hold your breath, that’s all we can do,” Baffert said. “Two more days. I can make it, though. I’ve got three stents (in his heart) and they’re good. So we’re good. We’re just going to keep going and hope everything goes well.”