BAFFERT AND THE PHAROAH BOND SPECIAL
The bond between man and animal can be something very special. Heck, sometimes the kids take a backseat to a four-legged friend and often times with good reason. The beagle hound usually is more obedient and most of the time never talks back. We should never underestimate that kinetic thought process a person and a pet can enjoy. The wavelength we are going to talk about is not quite the same as the normal hound dog to hillbilly connection. Rather it is of a much higher profile.
By now, we all know of the marvelous accomplishments of Thoroughbred superstar American Pharoah. Conditioned by hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert, this son of Pioneerof the Nile has taken his main man to all new heights. Known since the late 1990’s as one of the best trainers in the game, the marvelous magnificence of a Triple Crown winner and a Breeders’ Cup champion has allowed Baffert to climb the ladder even higher. But what of their day to day relationship?
One of the reasons for the American Pharoah success story is the love that developed between horse and handler. Always putting the best interest of his prized pupil first, the former Arizona Wildcat refused to run in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile due to injury concerns. Keeping him out of action until he was completely ready, Pharoah did not make his three-year old debut until March at Oaklawn Park. Spending countless hours together, this became way more than just a horse-trainer relationship.
As Baffert and his charge continued to grow closer and the wins piled up, the cunning California-based conditioner got a better understanding of just what he had. Having been around the track with four horses that took two of the three races in the Triple Crown chase (Silver Charm 1997, Real Quiet 1998, Pont Given 2001, War Emblem 2002), he clearly recognized the living piece of art in his possession. Handling this Picasso pony with ultimate care, he led him to Triple Crown glory. The continuing run through the history books culminated with an emphatic win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. What made the Classic triumph even better was it came after a slight hiccup in the Traver’s Stakes and his only loss of the year.
“I am so glad he went out the way he did,” says Baffert. “I know there were some doubters out there, but he answered all questions with his performance in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Indeed the 6 ½ length triumph told of his greatness. Now, however, the painting is in the Smithsonian as American Pharoah is off to enjoy his career as a stallion. So where does leave team Baffert as the sun dawns on a new day?
“I miss him already,” says Baffert. “I feel like I just sent my kid off to camp. You wonder is he eating like he should, is he sleeping like he should, what’s happening with him? It’s going to take some getting used to as far as not having him around.”
The veteran trainer that has dominated the West Coast for decades is not the only one that will be missing his fantastically fast friend. As a tremendous ambassador for the sport, this three-year old colt gave more than just his team a warm fuzzy. Now, however, the page has turned and even though history was written, a new day will dawn. Considering that, the best way for Bob Baffert to stop missing American Pharoah is simple…Start painting another picture!