Will Bob Baffert Leave The Breeders’ Cup Victorious?

Author: Lindsay Griffin

Love him or hate him, Bob Baffert is one of the biggest names in all of Thoroughbred racing. 

In a career spanning four decades, he has racked up some pretty impressive stats. He is among the most famous Breeders Cup past winners by TwinSpires.com with 18 victories, as well as six Kentucky Derbies, seven Preaknesses, and three Belmonts. He is a member of Thoroughbred racing’s Hall of Fame, has been named Eclipse Outstanding Trainer four times, and is one of only two trainers to condition two Triple Crown winners. 

However, there is a dark side to Baffert’s illustrious career. Several of his high profile charges have been found to have had more than the allowed amount of prescription drugs in their systems after races, including multiple graded stakes winners Charlatan and Gamine. 

Most famously, however, was the case involving the late Medina Spirit, who finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit was found to have more than the allowable amount of betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory drug Baffert claims was used to treat a skin condition. Medina Spirit was disqualified and Baffert faced many sanctions, including a ninety-day nationwide ban (which ran over this spring and early summer) and a two-year ban from tracks owned by Churchill Downs, the host track of the Kentucky Derby.

Keeneland, the host track for this year’s Breeders’ Cup races, is not one of those tracks, and few of Baffert’s top owners appear to have lost faith in him. Therefore, he is coming into this year’s championship series with a group of talented, well-bred horses, some of whom have excellent chances to win.

Let’s take a look at some of Bob Baffert’s top Breeders’ Cup prospects:

Cave Rock

This undefeated son of Arrogate looks to be the horse to beat in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He went straight from his victorious debut into Grade I company, taking first the Del Mar Futurity and then Santa Anita’s American Pharoah Stakes. Each of his victories has been by daylight, with his nearest rival more than five lengths behind at the finish line.

Cave Rock is a member of Arrogate’s second crop. Arrogate, who was himself a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, has already aired Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath, so longer distances around two turns appear to be in Cave Rock’s reach.

Laurel River

This lightly raced colt could be a key player in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The son of Into Mischief was last seen on August 27th, winning the Grade II Pat O’Brien Stakes in decisive fashion. Although it was Laurel River’s first stakes win, the Pat O’Brien is a Win And You’re In prep for the Dirt Mile, meaning not only that Laurel River earns an automatic berth into the race, but also that all if his entry fees and travel expenses are paid for. 

In the race, Laurel River kicked away at the top of the stretch, split foes, and increased his lead to a comfortable 3 ¾ lengths. The field of ten included the talented Grade I winners Speaker’s Corner and American Theorem, meaning that while Laurel River may be short on experience, he has proven himself to have talent and class.

Defunded and Country Grammer

This pair packed a one-two punch in the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes

Defunded, a four-year-old gelding by Dialed In, scored his first stakes victory in the Awesome Again. He did do in gate-to-wire fashion, holding off an early challenge from Slow Down Andy and never letting anyone else get within a length of him once he passed through the turns.

The favorite in the race was Defunded’s stablemate, Group I Dubai World Cup winner Country Grammer. The son of Tonalist, while providing no serious challenge to the winner, closed well to overtake Slow Down Andy for second. Country Grammer, unlike many Classic prospects, is no stranger to ten furlongs; both his Dubai World Cup win and his Grade I Pacific Classic second have come at that distance. 

Huynh Nguyen

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