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Biofile Bob Baffert Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

Status: Trainer of Triple Crown winners American Pharoah (2105) and Justify (2108). Trained seven Kentucky Derby winners, seven Preakness Stakes winners and three Belmont Stakes winners.

Ht: 5-9 Wt: 170

DOB: January 13, 1953 In: Nogales, Arizona

Nicknames: “I’m just plain Bob.”

Hobbies/Interests: “I’m a TV critic. Sit there on the couch and change channels, Oh, that sucks. Play guitar. A way to release tension from a bad day at the office. Plug that guitar in and play it as loud as I can. If I wasn’t a trainer, I’d love to be in a rock band! Play golf, but I’m terrible. Play nine and I’m burnt out.”

Favorite Movies: “Comedies. I get all my material and lines from movies. Chevy Chase Vacation movies – love them. Dances With Wolves. Austin Powers. 1941 – ridiculous!”

Musical Tastes: “Rock, guitar, Top 40, Eric Clapton, Eagles, concerts, Don Henley, Joe Walsh.”

All-Time Favorite TV Shows: “Stony Burke, McHale’s Navy, Seinfeld, Taxi – love that show.”

Childhood Dream: “I wanted to be a jockey. Loved riding. But my jockey days weren’t very good. Let’s put it this way…when my horse was 30-1, 29 was me!”

First Job: “Exercising horses when I got to college. For $5 a mount.”

First Car: “Used 1964 red Pontiac GTO. Passed down by my brother Bill.”

Funny Racing Memory: “It didn’t happen to me. It was at Prescott Downs, about 1980. There was a stallion in a race that was just out of control. Horniest horse I ever saw. Ejected from racing. They couldn’t control him in the paddock area. Knocked a kid out. They were whipping the horse, whipping his penis. He jumped a gelding, started screwing this horse on the track…when the pony boy was still on his back! You could hear the laughter in the grandstand [laughs]. We were rolling! Then when he was done, he was fine. And he’d do it everywhere he went. I wish I could remember the name of that horse.”

Favorite Meal: “Steak, french fries…that’s me, buddy.”

Favorite Breakfast Cereal: “Sugar Smacks.”

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “Vanilla.”

Pre-Race Feeling: “I don’t want anyone to mess with me. Usually, I feel well-prepared. Everyone’s trained to sort of stay away from me before a race. I try to get the jockey to relax, keep cool. Hey, just go out there like it’s a normal race. Stay cool. I don’t want them to feel like me…or else they’ll fall off the horse [smiles]. Before I saddle up the horse, I’ll run my hand down his back, rub him a little bit, to let him know everything is cool. Every now and then I’ll go like (Ty Webb) Chevy Chase’s character in the movie Caddyshack, when he pulls out his putter, Oh, Billy, Billy, Billy. They love it. I live through movies [smiles].”

Greatest Sports Moment: “Many highlights. I’ve been fortunate. When I won my first race as a jockey in 1970 at a two-week fair meet in Flagstaff, Arizona. In 1971, I won my first race as a trainer. Training quarter-horses, won the 1986 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos with Gold Coast Express. ’92 Breeder’s Cup with Thirty Slews. That was the first horse I ever purchased for $30,000. Those are the races I wanted to jump out of my body and fly. I thought…it ain’t gonna get any better than this. Can’t top that. Then, winning the Kentucky Derby with Silver Charm in 1997.”

Most Painful Moment: “Getting beat with Cavonnier by a nose at the 1996 Kentucky Derby (by Grindstone). Got beat on the buzzer. When he got beat, I thought, This was my one chance in life. I’ll never be back.”

Favorite Horses: “Baffert’s Heller. I loved that horse. We owned him. Not really good. Tough to ride because he had quirks about him. Took me two years to learn to ride him. When he realized I wasn’t afraid of him, he was a puppy. One of those deals. But my all-time favorite is Silver Charm. Always. When he won the Dubai Cup he was just unbelievable. Won it on guts. He was tired. Several horses took runs at him – they got by him – but he fought back. He’s a fighter. Everybody loves him. Every day, people would come by the barn just to look at him.”

Favorite Athletes To Watch: “Sports playoffs – when the cream rises to the top. When it means something. Derek Jeter, Joe Montana, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Mark McGwire, Michael Jordan, Barry Bonds…I love guys who – when the money is down – they come through. Muhammad Ali – my all-time favorite. Dying to meet him. Cigar. Silver Charm. Real Quiet. War Emblem. Some of my two-year olds…the stars of the future.”

People Qualities Most Admired: “People that keep their word. Where a handshake is good enough. You can tell I’m a pretty good reader of that.”

Future Ambitions: “Still waiting for a horse like Secretariat to drop in my lap.”

(Note: This is one of my favorite Biofiles, Bob Baffert is one of the best interviews in sports, just a good guy and a natural quote machine.)

Bob Baffert on winning 2021 Kentucky Derby with Medina Spirit on Shepard Smith

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