Hall of fame Thoroughbred conditioner Bob Baffert is headed back to the hills. No, not the Hollywood hills of his current residence, but rather the hills of Arkansas where Oaklawn Park is situated.

During this decade, California’s top conditioner has made Oaklawn Park his own friendly confines as he prepares his top 3-year olds for the Kentucky Derby.. Fresh off his fourth triumph in the world’s most famous race and with Triple Crown in hand, Baffert is headed back to the Ozarks and Hot Springs with a full deck of Derby contenders.

First up on the schedule will be the Smarty Jones on January 18. Baffert will send out the talented Toews on Ice for the one-mile race. This front-running son of Archarcharch will be looking for his fourth career win in seven lifetime starts.

On the 15th of February, the Arizona native will look to send the up and coming Collected to the starting gates in the Southwest Stakes. With a win at Santa Anita in his last start on January 9 and a second place finish on the Del Mar turf November 29, the travel could be seasoning for this son of City Zip. More time on the track can only be good after a promising run in his Sham Stakes win last out.

“He looks like he has a lot of quality,” says Baffert. “His effort was much better than it looked in the Sham because the track was deep and very challenging. He sat off the pace and kicked off nicely when he needed to.”

Baffert also has a serious Derby contender in Mor Spirit. His next start is likely to be in the Robert Lewis Stakes in early February, but don’t count him out of a run in either the Rebel Stakes in March or the Arkansas Derby in April. Baffert has won 5 of the last six runnings of the Rebel and 2 of the last 4 Arkansas Derbies. That success means Baffert goes to the Ozark Oval for one basic reason…to win.