Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who had high hopes and 10 horses to run in
the two-day Breeders' Cup events, was an 0-fer for the weekend, but still
managed to smile and put a philosophical turn to things Sunday morning at
"When expectations are high -- really high like they were for us -- the dropoff is hard," he stated as he stood in the company of his seven-year-old son Bode and watched a string of his horses gallop by. "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."
Baffert's tale of woe includes Classic favorite Game On Dude, seventh; Sprint also-rans Fast Bullet (sixth), Coil (seventh) and Capital Account (12th); Fed Biz, eighth in the Dirt Mile; Jaycito, 11th, Marathon; Executiveprivilege, second, Juvenile Fillies; and Power Broker and Title Contender, respectively fifth and eighth in the Juvenile.
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 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. Funny how that works with one like him, but that's how it is.
"You know, I was in the paddock before the race and I was looking at all those other horses and they knocked me out. 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 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."
Was Game On Dude's performance his biggest disappointment of the weekend?
"I was really disappointed in the efforts of three of my horses," Baffert said. "Game On Dude for sure. 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. His race was just like Point Given's Derby (a disappointing fifth 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 stated that none of his runners had bled and that he'd had them all scoped to be sure.
"Sometimes you might see signs of that days later," he said, "but they're all fine for now."
Baffert also noted that his two-year-old Super Ninety Nine, who was one of the favorites for Friday's Juvenile Sprint but never got to run when he cast himself in his stall that morning and was withdrawn, was doing fine. The colt had scrapes on a stifle and his forehead, but did not require stitches of any kind and was recovering well from the ordeal.
"How about that," Baffert said, "I haven't had a horse cast in his stall on race day in 15 years and here I have one Friday. It sort of set the tone for my whole weekend. Saturday, I never even got to root for a horse in the stretch. I could have stayed home and watched it all on TV."
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."