Meet Tim Yakteen, The Trainer Running Bob Baffert’s Horse In The Kentucky Derby

Written By Dave Bontempo on May 3, 2023
Tim Yakteen running Bob Baffert's horse at Kentucky Derby 2023, from

Chances are you’re probably hearing the name Tim Yakteen talked about in Kentucky Derby chatter.

He is the trainer of Practical Move, a viable threat in the Kentucky Derby.

He’s also the trainer of Reincarnate, a Derby entry, at the behest of his longtime mentor and friend, Bob Baffert, who is suspended from this year’s Run for the Roses.

One Derby entry for himself and another essentially for his buddy.

What a story Yakteen has authored.

California horse racing bettors know Yakteen from his presence and training operations at Santa Anita Park and Del Mar.

What they may not know is the California connection between Yakteen and Hall of Fame trainers Baffert and Charlie Whittingham. All of that that paved his unusual path to Churchill Downs on Saturday.

Who is Tim Yakteen?

Yakteen was born in Germany when his father was stationed there during a tour of duty for the US Army service. He left Germany at 18 and settled in California, gaining employment at the entry racing level of mucking stalls.

He began working with Baffert, who was then guiding quarter horses. Baffert moved to training thoroughbreds in 1988 and Yakteen literally went along for the ride.

He remained with Baffert until 1991, when he was offered a bigger opportunity to work with the thoroughbreds and Whittingham in California. During Saturday’s Kentucky Derby broadcast, you will hear that Hit Show is trying to win from the rail, which no horse has done since 1986. It was done that year by Ferdinand, trained by Whittingham.

For six years, Yakteen was Whittingham’s right-hand man, directly involved with the careers of multiple stakes-winning mare Flawlessly and Santa Anita Handicap winner Sir Beaufort, as well as a record-setting run by the horse he saddled in the Japan Cup – Golden Pheasant.

Yakteen saddled his first winner in 1991, Lady Keeper.

ALSO READ: California Horses Practical Move, Reincarnate, Skinner Racing In 2023 Kentucky Derby

Returning to work with Bob Baffert

In 1997, he returned to the Baffert barn. For the next seven years, he helped Baffert guide champions Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Silverbulletday, Chilukki and Point Given.

By the time he went on his own in 2004, Yakteen had been seasoned by racing royalty. Baffert has a record-tying six Kentucky Derby victories and has trained the past two Triple Crown winners in American Pharoah and Justify.

Whittingham won a second Kentucky Derby with Sunday Silence. His horses won 2,533 races and he was the all-time leading trainer at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park at the time of his death in 1999. Whittingham won three Eclipse Awards as the nation’s top trainer.

Yakteen would notch his first stakes winner in 2004 by taking Sabiango to the Deuling Grounds (now Kentucky Downs) in Kentucky to capture the 12-furlong Kentucky Cup Turf Handicap. Like his conditioner, Sabiango was a German-bred.

Yakteen broke through in 2013 with his first “big” horse when Points Offthebench, a California-bred, registered victories in four of five starts. That included a pair of Grade I sprint stakes – Del Mar’s Bing Crosby and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship.

Points Offthebench won an Eclipse as Sprint champion. He also was honored in his home state by being named California’s 2013 champion older male, sprinter and Horse of the Year by the California Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.

READ MORE: Without Sportsbooks, Kentucky Derby Is Biggest Gambling Event In California

Helping his one-time mentor at the 2023 Kentucky Derby

Yakteen gained a different type of high-profile visibility last year as an ally for Baffert, who was suspended from the Kentucky Derby once victorious Medina Spirit failed a drug test after the 2021 race.

Though Baffert has appealed that verdict, his horses have not been allowed to obtain qualifying points in Kentucky Derby prep races.

Baffert was allowed to shift his horses to another barn. He trusted no one more than Yakteen, who took over the reins on Taiba and Messier last year. Taiba won the Santa Anita Derby and managed to run in the Kentucky Derby. He later won the Pennsylvania Derby.

Yakteen also assumed duties for Doppelganger and McLauren Vale, other Baffert hopefuls.

This year, Baffert trusted Yakteen enough to transfer what seemed like his whole barn.

Yakteen guides Arabian Knight, National Treasure, Fort Bragg, Mr. Fisk, Arabian Lion, Carmel Road and Hejazi, along with Reincarnate.

It is presumed that many of the horses will go back to Baffert’s stable after the Derby. National Treasure, in fact, is being pointed at the Preakness Stakes May 20. Baffert is allowed to enter horses at the New York race.

Tim Yakteen running Bob Baffert horse Reincarnate at 2023 Kentucky Derby, from
Kentucky Derby hopeful Reincarnate works out at Churchill Downs Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Has the pupil surpassed the master with Practical Move?

But here’s a kicker.

Yakteen did more than keep the light on for his one-time mentor. He may have usurped the Hall of Fame trainer with a prospect of his own in Practical Move.

In the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, Yakteen’s horse beat Baffert’s group that included Hejazi.

In the Santa Anita Derby, Practical Move finished well ahead of National Treasure.

Thus, while Yakteen has been a friend of Baffert, and temporarily saved his friend’s operation, he has dreams of his own.

Tim Yakteen has a quality team around him

Yakteen lives in Monrovia with his wife, Millie Ball, and their sons Sam and Ben. His stable is operated from Santa Anita with relocations to Del Mar for the dual race meetings.

For those outside of San Diego and Arcadia, the sites of those two racing facilities, Monrovia sits in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County.

RELATED: Previous Santa Anita Park Winners Who Also Won The Kentucky Derby

It provides a nice location for Yakteen to service two acting establishments.

And his wife is right alongside.

A native of the United Kingdom and a former rider, Millie Ball is the only woman to have won the Marlborough Cup Timber race. Recognized as a personality on HRTV’s former Race Day America, Millie is the on-air racing analyst at XBTV and Santa Anita Racetrack.

The Yakteen team includes assistant trainer Jon Applegarth.

While working in Lambourn, England for top trainer Henry Candy, Applegarth was given the opportunity to travel to California. In 2004, he was hired as Yakteen’s assistant trainer.

Veterinarian Dr. Ryan Carpenter graduated from the UC Davis school of veterinary medicine in 2005 and is another major part of Yakteen’s team.

It all comes together Saturday for Yakteen.

Born in Germany, seasoned for more than two decades in California by two Hall of Fame trainers and now entering the famed Run for the Roses himself. All of that while enabling Baffert’s horses to reach their potential.

It’s unlikely that Practical Move and Reincarnate would run 1-2 in the Derby, giving Yakteen one place in the winners circle for himself and another for his mentor.

But there would be no bigger story in sports if they do.

Photo by AP Photo/Ashley Landis
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Written by
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is a writer for PlayCA, and has covered the horse racing and boxing industry extensively since the 1980s. He was an award-winning writer at the Press of Atlantic City. As a broadcaster, he has won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting, issued by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has called major fights for HBO, ESPN, Showtime, and other networks since the 1980s. He is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Dave shifted gears to cover the emerging legalized sports-betting industry in 2018. He now serves as the go-to authority on horse race betting across multiple websites, including PlayCA and California Casinos.

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