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Baffert Seeks 5th SA Derby with 'Nile

3/22/2009 Bob Baffert is as familiar with winning the Santa Anita Derby as he is with winning training titles at the storied track. He has made his headquarters in Arcadia for nearly two decades, winning the Santa Anita Derby four times, and the training championship eight times, including a record seven years in a row from 1996-97 through 2002-03.

“They’re all different,” Baffert said on a rainy Sunday morning at Clockers’ Corner, when asked about his past Santa Anita Derby winners and this year’s major contender, Pioneerof the Nile. “Plus,” Baffert continued, “the last time I won (in 2001, with eventual Horse of the Year Point Given), this was a dirt track.”

Santa Anita has since converted to a synthetic Pro-Ride main track. Baffert has won 19 races and four stakes this meet through 63 days. Two of the stakes victories were by Pioneerof the Nile, in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and the San Felipe Stakes. Baffert is not concerned that the son of 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker won’t hold his form if he gets to the Kentucky Derby on May 2 and runs on conventional dirt at Churchill Downs.

"Some of the synthetics are different, like Polytrack, but the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park (where Pioneerof the Nile won the CashCall Futurity as a 2-year-old last December) is more like dirt,” Baffert said. “I don’t worry about that. A good horse will do that, and Pioneerof the Nile is a good horse.”

Probable for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles: Chocolate Candy, Joel Rosario; Feisty Suances, no rider; Mr. Hot Stuff, Corey Nakatani; The Pamplemousse, Alex Solis; Pioneerof the Nile, Garrett Gomez; and Take the Points, no rider.


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