On hot days, some of the more hands-on trainers will hose down their horses personally after a race, rather than delegate the task to the groom. After the Haskell Invitational (G1), however, Bob Baffert was not concerned as much about his horse - Coil, who had just won the race - as he was his jockey - Martin Garcia.
He poured water from a fountain located in the winner’s circle on top of Garcia’s head. Though the heavily perspiring Garcia‘s body temperature, at that moment, may have been well north of 98.6 degrees, it wasn’t the jockey’s comfort that he was concerned with. It was his appearance.
“Now you look good!” Baffert loudly proclaimed, post-dousing.
Doubtless, the setting had a lot to do with Baffert’s perception of how his jockey looked. Garcia wouldn’t have looked as good on that Sunday afternoon at Monmouth if he were standing anywhere other than the winner’s circle after capturing the million dollar race.
Bob Baffert knows how to look good in the winner’s circle. He’s certainly been there enough, over the years. He’s hoping that Coil and Garcia can take him back there on Saturday after the running of the 142nd Travers Stakes (G1). But he understands that it won’t be easy.
“I think it’s going to be a tough race,” Baffert said at the draw press conference on Wednesday. “Every time you have Shackleford, he’s a fast horse and he shows up every time. You’ve got Stay Thirsty, he’s pretty quick, he stays up there, and Ruler On Ice, he has speed. All these young horses have speed.”
Baffert’s does too, although he didn’t show it in the Haskell. He dropped back to last place in the early stages of the race, a departure from his customary early placement on or near the lead. Baffert admitted that wasn’t the original plan, and gave the credit to the same person who’d he’d given the impromptu post-race shower to four weeks ago in Oceanport.
“It was a brilliant move on [Garcia’s] part [to take him back]. He wanted to take him back. I’d like to take more credit for the last race, but actually that was all Martin.”
With all the speed in Saturday’s race, tactics will once again play a huge role in the outcome. But despite the success that Coil had coming from off the pace last time, Baffert and Garcia will not necessarily employ the same strategy this time.
“We have speed, if we want to use it. I leave it up to Martin.”
It is the second consecutive year in which Baffert is training a Mike Pegram-owned Haskell winner. Last year, though, Baffert chose to bypass the Travers with Lookin’ At Lucky, in favor of the Indiana Derby (G2). This year, he’s opted for the more aggressive route with Coil.
“I think this is a good spot for him, it’s a good race and [there is] no better place to be than Saratoga. I’m just glad he’s doing really well and I think it’s going to be a great race.”
A great race that Baffert is hoping will land him and Garcia in the winner’s circle once again. Only this time, with Hurricane Irene approaching, the victory shower might come from the heavens rather than the hand of Baffert.