LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Bob Baffert will bristle before he is finished reading the first four paragraphs, but this was the up-to-the-minute Kentucky Derby 145 forecast that percolated at Churchill Downs Thursday:
A Bob Baffert thoroughbred storm that will produce flooding of the winner’s circle and strong winds whipping up a 1-2-3 Baffert finish.
“They can chisel the trophy right now,” said D. Wayne Lukas, a trainer whose name has been chiseled on four Derby trophies.
“He’s in the best position he’s ever been in his his life. Bob’s going to win it this year — and he’s going to be the favorite next year, too.”
Have you ever saddled the top three horses in a prime-time race, Bob?
“Have I ever what?” Baffert said, wincing.
Walked into a paddock and saddled the top three picks in a race the way Baffert will bounce into the paddock late Saturday afternoon and send morning line favorite Game Winner (9-to-2) and second choices Improbable (5-1) and Roadster (5-1) into the Derby post parade.
“I don’t know if they’re the top three horses,” Baffert said, in a fruitless protest.
“Two of them got beat their last time out and one of them (Roadster) won. I think it’s pretty close … it’s a wide-open event. This is one of the closest Derbies I’ve ever seen.”
Sorry, everybody. Resistance is futile. With Arkansas Derby-winner Omaha Beach officially scratched because of a throat condition, it’s challenging to make a serious case for a horse outside Baffert’s talented barn, as the Derby favorite.
It’s equally silly for Baffert to pretend he is not the guy to beat.
Doesn’t mean an upset is impossible. I’ve seen Gato del Sol, Giacomo and Mine That Bird overtake a tiring horse in the stretch at Churchill Downs.
But Baffert’s position is as strong as it was with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018), his fab five Derby winners.
Baffert said the only things he knows about Ben Jones are that Jones trained for Calumet Farm when it had the most powerful stable in the game and that Jones is the only trainer with six Derby wins.
Baffert does not intend to do further research on Jones, who won his Derbies in a 15-year stretch from 1938-1952.
A day earlier the wise guys were picking Omaha Beach to win on Saturday. Now the colt is scheduled for throat surgery. It can happen.
Baffert said that all people in his barn are so jittery they begin every text message with these words:
Then they complete the message.
When Baffert called WinStar Farm president Elliott Walden to inform him that he was driving former NBA coach and player Avery Johnson to the track Thursday morning, Walden’s first reaction was something unfortunate had happened to their colt, Improbable.
“Don’t scare me like that,” Walden said.
“That’s why I don’t think about any Ben Jones records or things like that,” Baffert said. “I’m just trying to get there with these horses.”
Baffert was one of the first people to call and encourage trainer Richard Mandella after he learned that Mandella’s Omaha Beach would not race Saturday.
“I felt so bad for Richard,” Baffert said. “We’re competitive and we want to beat each other but we don’t want to beat each other that way.
“I know how excited he was. He’s a guy who’s my neighbor. He’s a friend. I felt like if I couldn’t win it, I’d like to see him win it because he’s always been a great trainer. It’s devastating.”
Trainers Todd Pletcher, Shug McGaughey, Neil Howard and Lukas all said similar encouraging things about Mandella, a guy as respected as anybody in the game.
“Richard Mandella sets the example for how to act,” Howard said.
“In our business it’s the most difficult problem you deal with,” Pletcher said. “What’s so difficult is these horses get one chance at it.”
On Saturday Bob Baffert will get three chances at Kentucky Derby 145 — with serious contenders who are as proven as any in the race.
“With Omaha Beach, we’re probably going to have to have something crazy happen for Bob not to win the race,” Lukas said. “It’s a three-pronged attack.
“Bob’s got the right combination. He’s got a tremendous eye for a horse. He can pick ‘em. He can go in the sale and his draft choices are always good. When he gets them, he knows what to do with them.
“You get that combination and I like him Saturday and I’ll give you odds he’ll have the favorite next year, too. He’s on a roll.”
Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.