Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Baffert Hopes Fourth Time's a Charm

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Baffert Hopes Fourth Time's a Charm

Article excerpt

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Bob Baffert's horse racing legacy is etched on his Hall of Fame plaque.

Four Kentucky Derby wins. Six Preakness Stakes. One Belmont Stakes. Ten Breeders' Cups (including a Classic). Two Kentucky Oaks. Two Dubai Cups. Seven Haskell Invitationals. Seven Santa Anita Derbies.

But no Triple Crowns.

For the fourth time in 14 years, the trainer tries to rectify that Saturday when he sends the 3-5 favorite American Pharoah to the starting line in the 147th Belmont Stakes. Win his sport's elusive golden rung and even a humble, at least on the outside, Baffert would have to concede that his legacy is complete.

"I've had my career. I'm just finishing it off," Baffert said Thursday after American Pharoah had a "very promising" gallop in his morning cameo on the track.

Baffert insists he hasn't thought about himself and every year he thinks he can't do as well as the year before, but he usually does.

"I never set goals for myself," he said. "I've been so fortunate to have a lot of good horses."

Ahmad Zayat, American Pharoah's emotional owner from Teaneck, took that as his cue to grab the microphone and paint a different picture of his trainer.

"Don't believe him," Zayat said. "He's the most competitive guy I know. His goals are extremely high and lofty. He wants to go down in history as one of the best."

Baffert has come a long way since his formative years when he trained quarter horses. His race to the top might have happened sooner if one of his Triple Crown contenders finished off their campaigns.

Real Quiet, in 1988, was the toughest to accept. After beating Victory Gallop in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Real Quiet had a four-length lead in the stretch, only to have Victory Gallop catch him and win by a nose. Silver Charm, in 1998, didn't see Touch Gold come up late and finished second. War Emblem, in 2002, never had a chance after he stumbled badly coming out of the gate, finishing eighth. …

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