BAFFERT HOLDS CLASS AT THE SPA
Life should always be a learning experience. Whether it is the three R’s in school (reading, riting, rithmetic) or the mix cousin Joe Bob uses when making corn in a jar, you can always gain knowledge if you just pay attention. So that means anybody with a pulse should have picked up a little something-something on Travers day at Saratoga on August 27.
When the horses were lining up for the 147th running of the Travers Stakes, hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert was somewhat of an afterthought. Yes, the California-based conditioner was bringing two entrants to a field of thirteen three-year olds, but his success rate at the Spa in this race had not been up to his normal standards. Having only sent six horses to post in the mid-summer Derby before, the silver-haired fox had only made it to the hen house once (Point Given 2001). So what’s he doing here in 2016 with a pair of front-running speed horses on a track that typically favors the late kickers? After a sizzling 1:59.36, we all knew class was in session.
The unheralded and underappreciated Arrogate showed everyone why professor Baffert had brought him to New York. Running like a well-oiled machine in his stakes debut, this son of Unbridled’s Song was simply sensational. Establishing a new Travers Stakes record and a track record for the mile and a quarter, many jaws were agape, but not the one belonging to the four-time Kentucky Derby winner.
“I had a lot of confidence coming in,” says Baffert. “We expected to win. I thought he was the horse to beat all along. I was surprised the late California money didn’t change the odds, but I was not surprised at all with how he ran. He had been working so well and we knew he was ready and there is just so much talent there.”
Arrogate went off at 11-1 on the tote board, but he ran like the overwhelming favorite. Leading virtually gate-to-wire under jockey Mike Smith, the long-striding colt put on a powerful run in executing his conditioner’s game plan.
“The plan was to get him out of the gates and just let him go,” says the Arizona native. “We felt like we had plenty of horse for the race. When he turned for home, I knew nobody was going to catch him.”
The ability to ship horses to different tracks across the country and win races has long been a strong suit of Bob Baffert. He gets them right at their California stables and then goes on the road with the hardware in mind. The ability to focus and prepare his talent has been at times uncanny. The Travers was proof once again that if the sunglasses show, it is for a spot in the winner’s circle.
“People have said that I don’t like Saratoga, but that is just not true,” says Baffert. “We just don’t there with horses that can’t win.”
For good measure, Baffert also took others to school by winning the 7 furlong King’s Bishop with Drefong in gate to wire fashion. With an-already star-studded stable, the veteran trainer’s roster just got a bit deeper and he proved once again he’s only in it to win it. If things continue this way for Arrogate, class will continue.
“I am glad Arrogate ran well,” jokes Baffert. “If he runs like that every time, we will never lose again.”