Bob Baffert hit another milestone in his Hall of Fame career last Saturday with his 3,000th North American Thoroughbred victory. Fittingly the milestone win came on the Triple Crown trail in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita Park, a stakes named for a man who helped provide Baffert some of his finest moments as a trainer, including his first Triple Crown attempt with Silver Charm.
Baffert made two subsequent runs at the Triple Crown after Silver Charm’s heartbreaking loss in the 1997 Belmont Stakes with Real Quiet the following year followed quickly by War Emblem in 2002. Baffert also won the second two jewels with Point Given after being luckless in the Kentucky Derby in 2001.
Seventeen years after that first run at the Triple Crown, Baffert ended his and racing’s drought with American Pharoah. A horse that quickly turned into a fan favorite during his racing career for his personality, he had everything one would expect from a Triple Crown winner.
The perfect temperament, talent at 2 that saw him take home champion 2-year-old male honors and the ability to race often at 3 were favorable traits American Pharoah flaunted.
American Pharoah’s history-making Belmont Stakes victory was covered in detail by This Is Horse Racing’s Tom Law in the story “American Dream” and by Joe Clancy in his The Outside Rail column about the historic, drought-ending Triple Crown triumph called “Savoring the moment at Triple Crown.”
“I was hoping it would happen,” Baffert said in the piece recapping the sweep in the Belmont Stakes. “I didn’t know how good it was going to feel. Now I know. They (his late parents) were with me today. I was talking to them the whole race.”
Baffert didn’t have to wait long to find that feeling again, though he did it in a dramatically different way from American Pharoah.
When the 2018 Robert B. Lewis was run, a big, chestnut colt named Justify hadn’t even made his debut. Two weeks later everyone knew Baffert had another monster on his hands when Justify won his debut by 9 1/2 lengths. Two starts later he qualified for the Kentucky Derby with a victory in the Santa Anita Derby.
That Santa Anita Derby – and Justify having to beat the Apollo Curse – were talked about in the April 9 edition of The Monday Special. If you forgot, the piece reminds you just how impressively Justify burst onto the Triple Crown trail that year.
Baffert started to think about the Kentucky Derby with Justify from the time he got the colt in from Los Alamitos that January. That confidence stayed until the Belmont Stakes, when his emotions hit after the colt crossed the line in front to become American racing’s 13th Triple Crown winner.
“Things happen for a reason,” Baffert said in Tom Law’s piece “Priceless Moment” posted June 12, 2018. “If it was meant to be, it was meant to be. I knew this horse was doing well. We had him ready, but that horse … just to train a horse like that, he’s just a magnificent animal. I’m just glad that I got a chance to train a horse like that.”
Though 3,000 wins is a huge benchmark, Baffert doesn’t look to rest on his laurels.
The trainer has another full hand going into this year’s big 3-year-old races with Thousand Words, Authentic and Eight Rings currently in the Top 20 on the Road to the Kentucky Derby points standings along with multiple Grade 1-winning older horses flying his flag in the handicap division this year.
Read about a few more major wins for Bob Baffert, from the pages of The Saratoga Special:
No Traffic, page 10 of the Aug. 4, 2019 edition covering McKinzie's score in the Whitney
Western Expression, page 10 of the Aug. 27, 2017 edition covering West Coast's Travers victory
Time Saver, page 10 of the Aug. 28, 2016 edition covering Arrogate's record-setting Travers win