BOZICH | Five Reasons American Pharoah, Baltimore Bob Baffert wi - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Five Reasons American Pharoah, Baltimore Bob Baffert will win the Preakness

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – I erred by putting Dortmund on top of American Pharoah on my Kentucky Derby predictions. I figured the race would be a Bob Baffert Production. I had the wrong lead actor.

Five reasons I won't be fooled again when the top 3-year-olds race in Baltimore at the Preakness on May 16:

1. Baltimore Bob Owns the Preakness: Nobody does the Preakness the way Bob Baffert does the Preakness.

The Kentucky Derby worries Baffert. He knows that crazy things happen at Churchill Downs. The Preakness does not worry Baffert. He knows he is in control at Pimlico.

All three of Baffert's Derby winners – Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002 – won the Preakness. Add the scores that Point Given made in 2001 and Lookin At Lucky delivered in 2010 and the man has a fistful of Black-Eyed of Susans.

Only D. Wayne Lukas (six) and Wyndham Walden (seven) have won more.

“The Preakness is the easiest race of the legs,” Baffert said. “The Derby is the hardest. The Preakness is the easiest. If you run well in the Derby, that means your horses are in top shape.”

2. When Baffert says American Pharoah is a special horse, he's not feeding you a juicy sound bite.

There wasn't anything special about American Pharoah's winning time (2:03:02) in the Derby. But remember the horse was three-to-six horses wide around both turns. Not only did American Pharoah run faster, he ran longer. It was a clean trip, but a wide one.

“He was just born with that talent,” Baffert said. “He has a long stride. He's quick. He's got a really good mind and he just floats over the ground. He's different. The way he's made …

“He's quick. He's handy. You can move on him at any time. And I think with more racing, he's getting smarter. He wasn't rank with Victor (Espinoza, his jockey) at all. He can sit there and pounce and run by you and go a mile and a quarter. He's competitive. He wants to win.”

3. Baffert isn't afraid of anybody, including Dortmund, the best challenger from his barn.

Baffert said he had no hesitation running his other Derby colt, Dortmund, in the Preakness. The colt's owner, Kaleem Shah, will make the call.

Dortmund led American Pharoah for nearly a mile in the Derby, moving at a modest pace with favorable inside position. It was Dortmund's race to win. But he lacked the stamina to finish the assignment, fading to third, behind American Pharoah and Firing Line.

It was Dortmund's first defeat in seven races. Baffert said that if Shah wants a rematch in Baltimore, he has no hesitation saddling a horse that could end his pursuit of a Triple Crown.

“It's not fair to the owners (to pass),” Baffert said. “Dortmund is still a really good horse. He ran an incredibly great race. He didn't work over this track. This track really moved Dortmund up. He ran a great race. And he looked good.

“The classics, this is why they buy horses to compete at the level so I can't (say No) ... When you're in a big barn like mine and they want to be ... everybody wants to be in the front row, they want to play at the top level, they understand that sometimes I'll beat them with another horse. They understand that.”

4. This Derby Win Let Baffert Exhale.

As good as Baffert has been in the Derby with his four victories, the race has also roughed him up the way it does that to every trainer. Baffert had failed with his last dozen Derby horses and admitted he was dreading returning to California without a trophy.

“I think this win was sort of different than my other ones,” he said. “I needed to get it done. I needed to win it. I felt like something was building and something was supposed to happen and it did. It was a big sigh of relief. It was like mission accomplished.”

5. American Pharoah had not been challenged all year. Now, he has been.

There's nothing wrong with winning four consecutive races leading into the Derby by a combined 22 lengths. That is what most trainers would prefer.

But eventually every horse gets tested. Baffert knows that American Pharoah was tested Saturday – and he's convinced he'll be a better race horse because of it.

“He finally had a hard work,” Baffert said. “He had a stiff race. He hadn't had a stiff race. Everybody says they have to one stiff race. Now he's had a stiff race. From here on, he should really move forward.”

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