Trainer Bob Baffert admits Lady Luck hasn't been good to him so far this year. His barn star, Vindication, was sent to the sidelines with a career-threatening injury that, at the very least, took him out of consideration for any of the Triple Crown events. Then, grade I winner Composure was off to the breeding shed after suffering a fractured sesamoid.
The disqualification of Kafwain from his second-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) due to too much Clenbuterol in his system followed. Add to that the tragic death of graded stakes winner Icecoldbeeratreds and the questions hanging over the heads of his remaining Derby hopefuls and, well, Baffert may be in serious need of divine intervention.
On Thursday, the white-haired conditioner may have gotten some. Priests on the backstretch of any racetrack are rare, so when two were spotted walking down the horse path by Baffert's barn, the trainer couldn't help but call them over to ask why they were there.
"We're here to bless the horses," one of them said.
Father Sean and Brother Joseph from the Pasadena Archdiocese were at Santa Anita to bless two horses at the request of one of trainer Dean Greenman's clients, an active member of the Catholic Church. Taking it as some sort of a sign, Baffert asked the pair to bless all the horses in his barn, but most especially three who will head postward in Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).
"Every little bit helps," Baffert said.
The trainer led Father Sean and Brother Joseph to the stalls of Kafwain, Domestic Dispute and Indian Express and each was read the prayer of St. Francis and blessed with drops holy water on their faces. Father Sean and Brother Joseph don't know much about horseracing but they'd heard of the Kentucky Derby. Both seemed excited about blessing one that could turn out to be a classic winner.
"Those horses are going to run in the Kentucky Derby?" Father Joseph asked. Told that at least one will likely be in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May, he replied, "I'm going to have to watch and see how they do. I remember Silver Charm a few years ago, but that's all I know. This was exciting."
Satisfied their jobs were done for the day, Father Sean and Brother Joseph left the track, but not before saying they'd be back if needed. Baffert was grateful for their time and blessings, himself praying that somehow their time at the track would help to cure his recent string of bad luck.