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Baffert Attracts a Crowd at Belmont Park

As usual, trainer Bob Baffert attracted a crowd everywhere he went on the backstretch Thursday morning, two days before Zayat Stables’ colt Paynter runs in the 144th Belmont Stakes.


Having won the Belmont with Point Given in 2001 as well as bringing three different horses – Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, and War Emblem in 2002 – into the race with a chance to annex the Triple Crown, the Hall of Famer is well-versed in the agonies and ecstasies of the “Test of the Champion.”


This year, with the fast and dangerous Paynter, he will attempt to play the role of spoiler to Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another.


“You’re disappointed,” Baffert said when asked about how it feels to get so close and not get the job done. “You’re exhausted. You wanted it to be over with, but it’s disappointing because you came so close and your horse ran so hard and then you come up short and forget about your Derby win and your Preakness win. You’re really just deflated. I used to say, ‘I want to win the Derby and just go home and better enjoy it!’


“Like Silver Charm, you feel like, ‘If he had seen that other horse (Touch Gold).’ When he took back, Gary Stevens thought [Touch Gold] was done. When I saw him go back, I thought ‘Touch Gold is done. I feel better.’ Then all of a sudden, when Touch Gold re-rallied, we picked him to the outside, and we were like, ‘Oh, my God!’ [Chris] McCarron was playing possum. That was a really great ride.


“Real Quiet needed a horse to carry him a little bit further,” Baffert said. “He was out by himself turning for home. He didn’t really move early, he just needed something in there to carry him. Once he got the lead, his ears would come up and he’d just shut it down. And then [Victory Gallop] came to him, and then he took off again. The only time he was behind was at the wire. He was in front before and after.”


With Point Given, Baffert’s only Belmont winner among nine American Classic scores, the trainer had a horse he believed good enough to win the Triple Crown. Point Given failed to fire in the Kentucky Derby and then won the Preakness before running the fastest Belmont Stakes (2:26.80) in the past 16 years.


For that race, Baffert wasn’t sweating like the others.


“In Point Given, when I brought him here, I knew he was a cinch,” he said. 




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