Baffert looking for more luck in Breeders’ Cup
AP Racing Writer
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) – Bob Baffert can only hope he has as good a couple of days at the Breeders’ Cup as he did last weekend.
On Sunday, the Hall of Fame trainer saddled four consecutive winners at Santa Anita. A day earlier, he had two winners, giving him six on the weekend and a career-high 22 at the Oak Tree meeting, where he hasn’t won the training title in 10 years.
“I’ve never won four in a row before, anywhere, and we did it with four different riders,” Baffert said Wednesday.
The stakes are much higher in the Breeders’ Cup.
He’ll saddle early co-third choice Always a Princess in Friday’s $2 million Juvenile Fillies. She has finished in the money in both of her career starts.
Baffert goes for his third consecutive win in Saturday’s $2 million Sprint with Zensational, the early 7-5 favorite, and his second straight win in the $2 million Juvenile with Lookin at Lucky, the 8-5 morning line favorite.
He’ll cap the day by saddling Richard’s Kid in the $5 million Classic, where his colt is among six horses listed at 12-1 odds in the race headed by undefeated mare Zenyatta and Irish import Rip Van Winkle.
“If he’s in the lead, I’ll head back to my car,” Baffert said, joking. “He’s really got to step it up in this company. With those European horses, they’re the ‘X’ factor. They came in here last year and humiliated everybody, and they’re good horses this year, too.”
Baffert has won seven Breeders’ Cup races in his career, third-best among trainers, but he’s never won the Classic.
He likes to joke that ever since he entered racing’s Hall of Fame in August his horses have been running better. Self-deprecating humor aside, the 56-year-old trainer has been as much of a sure bet as there is in racing.
He has nine Grade 1 stakes wins this year, and his purse earnings of $8,051,215 through Tuesday rank third nationally. His horses have finished in the money 50 percent of the time.
Or maybe it’s just that he’s finally figured out California’s synthetic tracks. Three years after the state mandated a switch from conventional dirt to a mixture of fiber, rubber and sand, Baffert has grudgingly accepted what he’s powerless to change.
“I just deal with them,” he said. “As long as they water them, they’re fair.”
After much experimentation, he found his way, landing in the Breeders’ Cup winner’s circle last year at Santa Anita with Midshipman in the Juvenile and Midnight Lute in the Sprint.
“You have to have a good horse. They have to be doing well that day,” he said. “You can work well, but if you’re not doing well that day, it doesn’t matter. You need luck.”
Baffert feels particularly good about Zensational and Lookin at Lucky.
If Zensational wins the Sprint, Baffert would join D. Wayne Lukas as the only trainers to win the same Breeders’ Cup race three years in a row. Lukas, who presented Baffert at his Hall of Fame induction, won the Distaff from 1985-87 and the Juvenile from 1986-88.
“Zensational finally gets to run against some top-caliber horses that are going to test him every step of the way,” Baffert said.
Zensational has finished out of the money just twice in seven career starts, and comes into the Sprint on a four-race winning streak, including three consecutive Grade 1s.
The 3-year-old colt drew the No. 1 post, which Baffert wasn’t happy about, although Zensational has broken from that same spot in two of his three recent wins.
“He lives in the one hole, that’s his home,” Baffert said. “I ought to hang a hay net in there for him.”
Lookin at Lucky has been even better, going 4-0 in his young career, including a victory in last month’s Norfolk Stakes on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface.
“Of all my horses, I’d say he’s my best chance,” Baffert said.
And he’s not just talking about the Breeders’ Cup. The Juvenile winner is often regarded as the winter book favorite for the Kentucky Derby.