BAFFERT HAS A GREAT YEAR…AGAIN
Some things change in the world as the calendar turns while others remain the same. Like sands through the hour glass…these are the days of our lives.
Oh let’s cut the philosophy and get to the point. As 2016 comes to a close let’s recognize one of the constants for say the last 20 years or so. Thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert has turned in another spectacular campaign. For those that wondered if there would be some type of “Triple Crown hangover” for California’s leading conditioner the answer was absolutely not. After guiding American Pharoah to the unthinkable in 2015, the hall of fame trainer turned in perhaps an even better 2016 as he led 25 more horses to the winner’s circle.
The highlights for Baffert during the past 12 months are numerous to say the least. “Big Race Bob” rallied his troops and got the best from his athletes in some of the more prominent moments. In saddling 108 winners from 401 starters, the former Arizona quarter horse trainer won at a 27% clip and had 59% of his runners finish in the top three. His horses earned $15,772,538 on the track in 2016, which was slightly down from the year before ($16,212,381), but his percentages in the money were higher. Shipping East and winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont (Hoppertunity), going gate to wire in the King’s Bishop (Drefong) and taking the Travers at Saratoga (Arrogate) in track record time were all coaching coups for the veteran.
A good campaign got even better for Baffert in the final months of the year. An exciting and unbeaten two-year old colt named Mastery won the Bob Hope at DelMar and the Los Alamitos Futurity with style. But the crowning achievement was beating the unbeatable California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Baffert came into the Classic with his lightly raced three-year old that few thought had a real shot at winning North America’s richest race. As has been customary throughout his career, Baffert was the fox in the hen house on a big day and Arrogate put on a monster performance when called upon. To provide a little perspective, in 2016 Chrome has won seven races and turned in the top Equibase speed figure of the year, yet Baffert found a way to best him. And for icing on the cake, this was his third consecutive win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic!
There are no givens in this world especially when it comes to sports. To be great year after year really says something. Some of the achievements of Bob Baffert might evoke “Wizard of Westwood” (John Wooden) or “Roll Tide” (Bear Bryant, Nick Saban) type thoughts. For this highly competitive conditioner it is just business as usual as he focuses on doing what he does best.
“We enjoyed this past year even though I came in a bit worried after American Pharoah and the Triple Crown,” says Baffert. “We have a good crop of horses in the barn now and look forward to 2017. We just want to be like the New England Patriots, reloading every year.”