On the Road to the Kentucky Derby with Bob Baffert

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert at Churchill Downs in 2015, when he won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands with American Pharoah.

Tom Pedulla of America’s Best Racing will interview prominent racing personalities as they travel the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. The opening leg of the Triple Crown will be run on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

A conversation with Bob Baffert opens the series. The 64-year-old, Hall of Fame trainer is tied for second all-time with four Kentucky Derby  victories: Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002) and American Pharoah (2015), who went on to become the 12th Triple Crown winner and the first in 37 years. Baffert needs only two more wins to equal the record held by Ben A. Jones.

PEDULLA: How are your top Derby prospects doing?

BAFFERT: The top two, Mastery and American Anthem, are coming right along. They are progressing and improving, which you want to see at this time of year. I’ve got some others that are trying to catch up to them.

Mastery (BENOIT photo)

PEDULLA: Mastery is undefeated through three starts. What is next for him?

BAFFERT: The San Felipe (March 11, Santa Anita Park). He’s right on target.

PEDULLA: Are you satisfied with the progress of American Anthem, a runner-up to Gormley in the Sham after he won his debut?

BAFFERT: He’s had two races, two really good races. I think the Rebel (March 18, Oaklawn Park) will be a good prep for him.

PEDULLA: You have won the Derby four times. Do you remain highly motivated to win more?

BAFFERT: You can never win enough Derbys.

PEDULLA: Is your place in Derby history important to you?

BAFFERT: That will come up later in life. To me, it’s never enough. If things had gone right, I could have had, like, eight Derbys.

PEDULLA: What was your most exciting Derby win?

BAFFERT: Silver Charm (1997) was the most exciting. I got beaten a nose the year before (Grindstone edged Cavonnier in the final stride). I thought I’d never get back. Silver Charm was the most exciting because I had won my first Derby. With American Pharoah, it was more relief because I didn’t get this great horse beat.

PEDULLA: How important is your experience in preparing horses for the Derby?

BAFFERT: It is a big edge; I can say that. I know what they can handle and what they cannot handle. When we get a good one, it’s like automatic for us. It’s like having a great quarterback. You know what to expect and what to do.

PEDULLA: After sweeping the Triple Crown with American Pharoah in 2015, do you think you have another Triple Crown in you?

BAFFERT: That American Pharoah, he was just incredible. We’re always hoping. Arrogate, if he had been ready earlier, he’s an off-the-charts kind of talent.

PEDULLA: Can you win this year’s Derby?

BAFFERT: This is a really good 3-year-old crop. I think there is a lot of parity right now. When they go a mile and an eighth, that’s when they are going to start to separate themselves.

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