Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who had high hopes and 10 horses to run in the two-day Breeders' Cup World Championships, drew a doughnut for the weekend, but still managed to smile and put a philosophical turn to things.
Speaking from Clockers' Corner at Santa Anita Park the morning after the Nov. 2-3 event, the 59-year-old conditioner said, "When expectations are high—really high like they were for us—the dropoff is hard. But what are you going to do? You forget, you learn as much as you can from it all, and then you go on."
In classic Baffert fashion, he even got a good wisecrack in.
"At least I got home in 10 minutes after the races," he said. "I didn't have to wait around for any ceremonies or anything like that."
Did the trainer see any sort of key, or pattern, to what happened to his horses?
"They all got beat in the first quarter-mile," he offered. "It was all about position. If you don't get position, you are in trouble. And none of my horses seemed to get that.
"Game On Dude (in the Classic) was a good example of that. The rider (Rafael Bejarano) wasn't aggressive in getting a spot for him early and he was done. He's a one-dimensional horse and he's got to be near the front. I told him you better not let them come over on you or you'll be in trouble, and that's what they did. When that horse can't be near the front, that's it for him.
"You know, I was in the paddock before the race and I was looking at all those other horses and they knocked me out," he added. "And there were some really serious horses in that field; some really good lookers and some really good runners. That Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man , they're good horses. Game On Dude hasn't been running against horses like that.
"I went back up to our box and I said out loud that there were some really good horses in the race and that I was worried. So right after that the TV guys come around and they ask (son) Bode who he likes in the race. So, he'd heard me and he says 'There's some really good horses in this race.' We had to whisper in his ear to say Game On Dude."
"Game On Dude for sure," he said. "And Executiveprivilege, I thought she'd win. But maybe the biggest of all was Power Broker. That was a huge disappointment. He was outside (post 9 in a nine-horse field) to start but I thought he'd be up close. He was eight wide all the way. And he never switched leads. He's still green.
"But we learned a lot from the race and it will help us down the line," he added. "His race was just like Point Given's Derby (when he disappointed as the favorite in 2001). He'll be fine, though. He's a good horse. He's just got to be ridden differently. And I've got to salute (Juvenile winner) Shanghai Bobby . I saw him with his ears up turning for home, waiting on horses. He's a nice horse for sure."
Baffert was asked to name the most impressive horse he saw all weekend.
"(Mile winner) Wise Dan," he said without hesitation. "What a horse he is. He's a star. I saw him in the paddock and I said, 'Oh, man, I'm glad they're not running him in the Classic.' If I had a vote, I'd vote for him for Horse of the Year."
The trainer concluded that future plans for all his horses were up in the air for the time being.
"I need some time to let this all settle," he said. "It takes a while to take it all in. It's been a big weekend and there are lots of things to think about. They'll all have other days and we'll figure out what they are in the future."