Baffert’s Potent Preakness Pair ‘Ready to Roll’

Racing

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert feeds American Pharoah a carrot at Churchill Downs the day after he won the Kentucky Derby. (All photos by Eclipse Sportswire)

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert knows that the daily grind of training fragile Thoroughbreds can exact an enormous toll.

He suffered a major heart attack in March 2012 while preparing for competition in the Dubai World Cup, a scare that led him to dramatically reduce his travel and make sweeping changes to his diet and overall lifestyle.

But there was nothing that could be done to reduce the amount of pressure he experienced before the Kentucky Derby last Saturday, not when columnists were asking whether American Pharoah and Dortmund represented the strongest one-two punch in the 141-year history of the run for the roses. His dynamic duo was being compared with Citation and undefeated Coaltown, who were saddled by Ben Jones in 1948.

Although Baffert had won the Derby three times before, with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002), he never arrived at Churchill Downs with such an air of expectation engulfing him. If 2-year-old champion American Pharoah or Dortmund, an impressive winner of his first six starts, did not bring home the roses, he would be viewed as a failure and Baffert knew it.

Did he feel pressure? More than a little.

“Those stints the doctors put in in Dubai, they must be really strong because they got really tested,” said Baffert, 62, during a national conference call on Thursday.

He also said of the build-up to the Derby: “I’ve never felt such pressure in my life as those last few days.”

As far as Baffert is concerned, the heat is off as he looks ahead to the Preakness Stakes on May 16 at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course with Derby-winning American Pharoah and Dortmund, who settled for third after setting comfortable early fractions in an anticipated speed duel that never materialized.

DORTMUND (inside) SET THE PACE IN THE KENTUCKY DERBY

“It’s a good position to be in and we’re used to it. We know what to expect,” said Baffert, a five-time winner of the middle leg of the Triple Crown. “We’re just going to enjoy it and take it all in and, hopefully, win another Preakness.”

The first step in that direction came Thursday when American Pharoah, owned by Zayat Stables, and Dortmund, who wears the red, white and blue silks of Kaleem Shah, returned to the Churchill Downs track for the first time since the race. They jogged once around the track after being limited to walking the shedrow as they recovered from the 1 ¼-mile Derby. Both apparently welcomed the opportunity to stretch their legs.

“Everything is good here,” said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s top assistant. “Everybody is happy.”

Baffert, spending less time on the road since his heart attack, had returned to his West Coast base with his wife, Jill, and Bode, their 10-year-old son. He is to rejoin his prized colts on Sunday, with all of them traveling to Pimlico Race Course next Wednesday.

Although American Pharoah and Dortmund possess similar running styles with their high early speed, and it is not at all inconceivable that Dortmund could derail his stablemate’s Triple Crown bid. Baffert reiterated his desire to start both.

Baffert noted the Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles and said of Dortmund: “He deserves another chance. He ran well. He ran his race. It’s a little shorter. He might like that.”

DORTMUND LED INTO THE DERBY STRETCH,
BUT AMERICAN PHAROAH (outside, blue and yellow silks) PROVED BEST 

Baffert, who went on to win the Preakness with his three previous Derby winners,  plans a light training regimen in an effort to help his horses handle the swift two-week  turnaround. No formal workouts are planned.

“I really doubt I’m going to breeze them. I don’t think they need any breezing,” he said. “They are pretty much ready to roll.”

So is their trainer.

Possible Preakness Contenders

Horse

Trainer

Most Recent Race

American Pharoah

Bob Baffert

Won Kentucky Derby

Bodhisattva

Jose Corrales

Won Federico Tesio Stakes

Carpe Diem

Todd Pletcher

10th in Kentucky Derby

Competitive Edge

Todd Pletcher

Won Pat Day Mile Stakes

Danzig Moon

Mark Casse

Fifth in Kentucky Derby

Divining Rod

Arnaud Delacour

Won Coolmore Lexington Stakes

Dortmund

Bob Baffert

Third in Kentucky Derby

Firing Line

Simon Callaghan

Second in Kentucky Derby

Materiality

Todd Pletcher

Sixth in Kentucky Derby

Mr. Z

D. Wayne Lukas

13th in Kentucky Derby

Tale of Verve

Dallas Stewart

Won maiden race at Keeneland on 4-23

AMERICAN PHAROAH WEARING THE COVETED BLANKET OF ROSES

 

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