The Kentucky Derby is America’s race, but in the eyes of Bob Baffert,
who has won the
Run for the Roses three times, the Breeders’ Cup is an inspirational and
motivating event that has the potential to attract new blood and new
bucks in an industry that sorely needs both.
Baffert should know. He has started 57 horses in Breeders’ Cup
races since its inaugural run in 1984, winning seven. He also has nine
seconds and three thirds, with earnings of $10,720,000.
On Friday and Saturday at Churchill Downs, the Hall of Fame
trainer who turns 59 on Jan. 13, plans to start 10 horses. This is a
personal record for the Nogales, Arizona native who with his distinctive
shock of snow-white hair, is the most recognizable horseman on the
Baffert’s Team of Ten candidates are: Secret Circle (Juvenile
Sprint); Irish Gypsy (F&M Sprint); Candrea (Juvenile Fillies); Plum
Pretty (Ladies’ Classic); The Factor (Dirt Mile or Sprint); Euroears
(Sprint); Drill (Juvenile); Irrefutable (Dirt Mile); Game on Dude
(Classic) and Prayer for Relief (Classic).
Euroears worked five furlongs Sunday morning under Martin Garcia
on Santa Anita’s main track in a bullet :57.80, galloping out six
furlongs in 1:09 3/5; Plum Pretty went six furlongs in a bullet 1:11.60;
Game on Dude went the same distance in 1:12.20, breezing, in company
with Amazing Hearted (five furlongs in 1:01.40); and unbeaten Juvenile
Sprint favorite Secret Circle went five furlongs in company with Visible
Marq. They were clocked in :58.40 and :59.60, respectively.
“Everything went so smooth,” Baffert said after the drills. “I’m very happy.”
The Factor is scheduled to work Monday. “I don’t know how far,”
Baffert said, “and which race he runs in depends on how he works
Meanwhile, Baffert is counting down until Friday.
“It’s probably the most I’ve ever had in a Breeders’ Cup,” he
said. “Right now, we’re
on pins and needles. We’re still a week away. A lot can happen, but we
feel good about some of our chances. I couldn’t sleep last night but
everything went really well this morning. I’m happy.
“At the same time, I don’t get too worked up thinking I’m going
to go in there and win 10. If they run their races, some of them,
they’re going to have to have good racing luck.
“I’ve been through it so many times. Charlie Whittingham, his
favorite line was, ‘Expect the worst and hope for the best.’ I try to
keep myself even-keeled. The owners, they dream in Technicolor; I dream
in black and white. We’ve got a ways to go, but right now, everything
looks really good. We haven’t had a hiccup, but you never know when that
While Baffert has thrice won the Derby and the first Saturday in
May is always foremost on his agenda, he credits the Breeders’ Cup with
providing the opportunity for industry growth.
“The Breeders’ Cup probably brings more horses into the business
than the Kentucky Derby,” he said. “The Derby is sort of a crap shoot.
You’ve got to be really, really lucky.
“But the Breeders’ Cup you can get lucky and find a horse maybe
that can win one of the races. I remember I was training quarter horses
and I was watching the ’84 Breeders’ Cup. It was so entertaining and I
liked their (TV) shows. Tim Conway did a little entertainment segment
and it struck me that maybe I could have a horse in the Breeders’ Cup
It didn’t take long. After finishing 11th with his first
Breeders’ Cup starter, Soviet Sojourn in the 1991 Juvenile Fillies, he
won the Sprint in 1992 with Thirty Slews.
“To me, the Breeders’ Cup gives people a feeling that maybe they
can get into horse racing and compete in that event,” Baffert said. “To
me, it’s even more exciting when you win a Breeders’ Cup race out of
“The Derby can be very intimidating, but not the Breeders’ Cup. The Breeders’ Cup is what got me in the Thoroughbred business.”
In other Breeders’ Cup news:
Caracortado (Turf Sprint) worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s
main track Sunday in company with J Man, going a bullet :46 flat,
breezing, and :47.80, respectively. Zoe Cadman rode Caracortado, while
the Cal-bred’s regular rider, Joe Talamo, was the “rabbit” aboard J Man.
“Awesome,” is how trainer Mike Machowsky summed up Caracortado’s
work. “He couldn’t be going any better right now. Let’s hope next
Saturday he feels like he did today.”
Machowsky said Caracortado ships for Kentucky Tuesday “and I go
Monday on the redeye.”
California Flag (Turf Sprint) worked four furlongs in “49.40, breezing.
“Everything’s good,” trainer Brian Koriner said after the drill.
Trainer Mike Pender on Saturday’s four furlong work in :50 flat
by Oak Tree Mile winner Jeranimo (Mile): “Jeranimo was in the dark under
the lights Saturday morning doing his maintenance, easy half-mile with
ears pricked, preparing for his blind date with European queen
Goldikova. He seems up for the challenge.”