After serving his suspension for the Kentucky Derby, California-based trainer Bob Baffert can train horses for the Preakness Stakes.
Baffert and National Treasure are a fitting exacta box for horse-racing industry purists.
California horse racing fans will watch to see if the Hall of Fame bound trainer re-claims center stage on May 20 in Baltimore. Baffert listed National Treasure as probable early in the week, as a horse that lost his momentum with a foot injury early this year but looks to be training well.
Bob Baffert back in his element
In Louisville, Tim Yakteen took over at the behest of Baffert, his longtime mentor and friend, who was suspended from this year’s Run for the Roses.
For the Preakness, Baffert won’t be entering the favorite, if Kentucky-Derby winning Mage runs as expected in the second jewel of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown. But National Treasure will gain his share of betting respect.
And Baffert would be back in an element he owns.
Golden State bettors watching him dominate stakes races at Del Mar, Santa Anita and Los Alamitos haven’t missed a beat with Baffert in the past two years.
But the national audience has seen him less, and many of his followers would like to see him return.
Triple Crown pedigree
Baffert is the king of the Preakness Stakes, authoring a modern-day record of seven victories. Modern, because Baffert shares the mark with a trainer named Wyndham Walden, who operated in the ’70s and ’80s. Like, the 1870s and 1880s. So rare is this level of dominance that it goes back nearly 140 years.
Baffert also shares a record six Kentucky Derby triumphs. Add that to three Belmont Stakes and he is the Triple Crown training champ with 16 victories.
One of these days, when his suspension from the Kentucky Derby over the 2021 drug test of initial winner Medina Spirit and his dispute with New York officials stemming from that is old news, Baffert will be back in the Triple Crown saddle. It could happen as early as next year.
With the Preakness, next year is already here in that sense because he is permitted to enter horses.
Baffert gearing up for Preakness
There is a warm spot in Baffert’s heart for this race. As Kentucky and New York racing officials sought to bar him in 2021, Pimlico worked with him over the Medina Spirit drug test. They enabled race-week drug testing for the horse, cleared him for the race and enabled his entry. He ran third.
This is where Baffert brought Justify in 2018 to capture the second leg of what became racing’s last Triple Crown sweep. Justify had won the Santa Anita Derby to qualify for the Kentucky Derby and then captured the Run for the Roses. The Preakness victory would then be parlayed into a Belmont Stakes triumph for the Triple Crown sweep.
This is also where Baffert brought American Pharoah in pursuit of the 2015 Triple Crown he would get.
Here’s a look at Baffert’s Magnificent Seven in the Preakness, an event that dates back to 1873.
1997 – Silver Charm
Waged an exhilarating stretch duel with Free House, with noses separating them over the last 100 yards. Captain Bodgit was flying in third and missed by a whisker. No jockey raised his hand in triumph until the photo revealed that this photo was indeed a Silver Charm for Baffert.
Silver Charm had also won the Derby.
1998 – Real Quiet
This triumph came in the middle of a great Triple Crown rivalry. Real Quiet was forced wide but was much the best in defeating Victory Gallop for the second straight time. Real Quiet had won the Kentucky Derby with Victory Gallop second.
Victory Gallop would later break Baffert’s heart by denying him the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes, beating Real Quiet by about four inches. But on Preakness day, Real Quiet made some noise.
Baffert accomplished two major achievements with Silver Charm and Real Quiet. He took two inexpensive horses (purchased for a combined $33,000) to Triple Crown triumphs. With the tandem, Baffert also became the first trainer to win both the Derby and Preakness in back-to-back years.
2001 – Point Given
Impressive triumph over Monarchos, who had beaten him by running the fastest Kentucky Derby in 28 years and the second-fastest ever just two weeks before. From here, Point Given demolished the Belmont Stakes by 12 lengths. This thus became the third year out of five in which Baffert won two Triple Crown races without taking the sweep.
2002 – War Emblem
Make it four out of six.
A jubilant Baffert watched War Emblem dispatch all challengers and add the Preakness to a Kentucky Derby triumph. There would be no sweep as War Emblem ran a disappointing 8th in the Belmont, but he came back to win the prestigious Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park in New Jersey that summer.
2010 – Lookin At Lucky
At betting odds of 7-1, made a sweeping move around the far turn and outlasted a four-horse pack. Defeated Super Saver, the Kentucky Derby winner.
2015 – American Pharoah
This is the race that raised the Triple Crown hopes that would be fulfilled three weeks later. Was contested in an early speed duel in the sloop before taking control around the final turn and winning for fun.
Baffert’s sixth Preakness would be part of the first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
2018 – Justify
Persevered in the fog at Pimlico in horrid conditions. Sent off as the prohibitive 2-5 chalk, he labored in a dog fight with Good Magic before putting him away and outlasting a furious charge from a group of horses.
It was Baffert’s last Preakness and the next-to-last lifetime appearance for Good Magic. He would go on to win the Belmont, sweep the Triple Crown and retire undefeated. Unfortunately for racing fans, he only competed six times.
Baffert’s horse beat a good Preakness competitor in Good Magic. So good, in fact, that his offspring Mage is the Kentucky Derby champion expected to use the Preakness as a Triple Crown springboard.
If Baffert enters National Treasure, he could have a hand in preserving his mark as the last Triple Crown-winning trainer.