Sports Betting

Baffert adjusts to life after American Pharoah

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December 30, 2015

ARCADIA, Calif. – More than eight weeks have passed since American Pharoah left trainer Bob Baffert’s stable for good, bound for Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

It is a different life,” Baffert said last weekend. “We’re in the A.P. life – After Pharoah.” In some ways, everything has changed for Baffert and his team at Santa Anita. Gone are the crowds of well-wishers who watched American Pharoah’s workouts and visited the barn to catch a glimpse of the Triple Crown star. In some ways, everything is the same. The stable continues its daily tasks, even without the most popular racehorse in the U.S. in its midst. The accolades still are arriving. Last week, American Pharoah’s sweep of the Triple Crown was recognized by the Associated Press as the top sports story of 2015. Baffert and his team have moved on. Santa Anita launched its winter-spring meeting last Saturday.

A new year dawns Friday. “It’s a different vibe,” Baffert said. “Every year at this time, it’s the same. We’re starting all over.” The elements are in place for another big season, although it’s unlikely to include a Triple Crown winner such as American Pharoah, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on Oct. 31 in his final start. No horse ever had done that. There are approximately 100 horses in Baffert’s main stable at Santa Anita and his second stable at Los Alamitos, which consists mostly of horses returning from layoffs or just starting their careers. The number will swell by approximately 20 to 30 horses in the spring, when the first 2-year-olds begin arriving. The runners currently in the stable will form a team competing in the major stakes at Santa Anita and at other venues such as Oaklawn Park in the coming months.

As always, expectations are high. “We’ve got a nice group of 2-year-olds in the barn,” Baffert said. “We’ve got a good group of older horses, a good group of stakes horses. We’ve got a lot of 2-year-olds that haven’t started. We don’t know what will happen.” On Friday, those 2-year-olds officially become 3-year-olds with the new year, and the scrutiny will intensify. Mor Spirit has been the stable’s leading 2-year-old of 2015 and is a leading prospect nationally for the 2016 Triple Crown. On Dec. 19, Mor Spirit won his first stakes in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity at 1 1/16 miles. “He did it the right way,” Baffert said. “It’s exciting to have a horse like him.”

In the coming weeks, the stable will have a presence in the older horse division with Dortmund and Hoppertunity. Dortmund, a 4-year-old in 2016 who has won 8 of 10 starts, was third in the Kentucky Derby last May and won the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at Del Mar on Nov. 28 in his last start. He was held out of the Malibu Stakes last Saturday because of a quarter crack but could run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 9. Hoppertunity, a three-time stakes winner who will be 5 in 2016, could run in the San Pasqual, which he won in 2015. Both Dortmund and Hoppertunity are candidates for the $500,000 San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 6, the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 12, and the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26. Balancing developing 3-year-olds and established older horses has been part of Baffert’s wintertime strategy for the last 20 years. He admits that there was a time after American Pharoah’s retirement in November that he briefly considered a change to his stable’s structure. “I thought of cutting back,” he said. “That lasted about a day. I’m responsible for a lot of horses and employees. That’s enough motivation to keep going.”

American Pharoah remains prominent in his mind. Baffert gets occasional requests through the mail to autograph memorabilia, and Pharoah is a quick subject when he runs into racing fans. He said the staff at Ashford Stud has kept him posted on the colt’s transition to stud in recent months. “They send me texts,” he said. “He’s doing great.”



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