Once Again, Baffert Top Trainer by Earnings

Published in the Jan. 5 issue of The Blood-Horse
How does a trainer go about snatching away the money title from someone who captured 48 stakes, 36 graded stakes, 18 grade I stakes, and earned a whopping $14,715,944?

For Bob Baffert, who somehow managed to stay one step ahead of Bobby Frankel all year, all he had to do was win a $6-million stakes in Dubai in March, then unleash a powerhouse of a colt to become the first horse in history to capture four consecutive $1-million stakes.

By the time Point Given had completed his string of million-dollar scores in the Aug. 25 Travers Stakes (gr. I), he and Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Captain Steve stood at the top of the earnings list with combined earnings of $7,551,200. That figure alone put Baffert ahead of every trainer in the country except Frankel, who trailed Baffert by more than $1 million. Despite Frankel's amazing final push in the fall, he fell short of catching Baffert, who had earnings of $16,243,576 through Dec. 28. It marks Baffert's fourth consecutive training title by money earned.

Imagine how much money Baffert could have won had Point Given, Captain Steve, and major stakes winners Congaree, Wooden Phone, Chilukki, and Saudi Poetry not all been sidelined by the end of August. It took his 2-year-olds Officer, Habibti, and Mountain Rage to make up for the loss of so much talent and earnings potential and keep Baffert atop the standings ahead of the charging Frankel.

Although Captain Steve was Baffert's leading money winner with earnings of $4,201,200 by virtue of his victories in the Dubai World Cup and $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I), his big horse was Point Given, who captured in succession the $1-million Preakness Stakes (gr. I), $1-million Belmont Stakes (gr. I), $1.5-million Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I), and $1-million Travers Stakes (gr. I). In addition, the son of Thunder Gulch also captured the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and $250,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II).

Point Given captured the public's imagination, drawing record crowds to Monmouth Park and Saratoga, and a record crowd for the Belmont Stakes in a non-Triple Crown year. His retirement shortly after the Travers was a major blow, not only to Baffert, but racing fans all over the country who had become captivated with the big charismatic chestnut.

But Baffert's year was not only about Point Given and Captain Steve. He also knocked off defending Horse of the Year Tiznow in the $500,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II) with Wooden Phone and defeated eventual Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Monarchos in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. II) with the late-developing Congaree. Congaree, following third-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, also captured the $500,000 Swaps Stakes (gr. I). Baffert also won the $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. III) and the $250,000 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) with Saudi Poetry.

With all his big guns gone by the end of August, Baffert had to rely mainly on his 2-year-olds. Heading that group was Officer, who captured the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (gr. I) and the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity (gr. II). On the female front, Habibti scored victories in the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) and $200,000 Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I).

With Frankel's remarkable feats in 2001, Baffert's accomplishments seemed to get lost in the shuffle, especially due to the fact that his biggest victories came earlier in the year. But looking at the year as a whole, Baffert's statistics are also mind-boggling. He saddled 17 stakes winners, including 10 graded stakes winners, and sent out five individual grade I winners to win 11 grade I stakes. His horses made 79 starts in graded stakes, winning 22, for a sensational 28% win ratio. Baffert also was popular with the chalk bettors, winning with 71 favorites from 190 starts for a win ratio of 37%.

2001 Leading Trainers by Earnings