Horse Racing

Bob Baffert: Preakness Stakes 2024 Trainer Profile

FanDuel Staff
FanDuel Staff
Bob Baffert: Preakness Stakes 2024 Trainer Profile

Trainer Bob Baffert, who trains Imagination in the 2024 Preakness Stakes, is one of the most recognizable figures in the sport of horse racing.

Though he started in the world of quarter horse racing, Baffert won his first thoroughbred race in 1979: a $600 maiden special weight race at Rillito with an Arizona-bred named Flipper Star. Since then, the stakes have steadily risen. He has won over 3,300 thoroughbred races in the last four and a half decades, including 17 Triple Crown races and 18 Breeders’ Cup races, for a total of over $355 million in purse earnings. He has been awarded the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer four times, most recently in 2015, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.

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Triple Crown Record

Bob Baffert is the only active trainer to have won the Triple Crown: and he has not only done it once, but twice. He trained American Pharoah to victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes in 2015, becoming the first trainer to win a Triple Crown since Affirmed completed the feat in 1978. American Pharoah also became the only horse to date to win a Triple Crown and a Breeders’ Cup Classic when he concluded his career with a triumph against older foes at Keeneland.

Just three years later, Bob Baffert added a second Triple Crown when Justify swept to victory. Justify not only became the second of Bob Baffert’s Triple Crown winners, but he became the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old. Justify is still only the third horse who didn’t race at two to win the Kentucky Derby, as Mage also did it in 2023.

Kentucky Derby

Though Bob Baffert is currently ineligible to start horses in the Kentucky Derby or any race at a Churchill Downs-owned track, he has a long history of success in the first race of the Triple Crown series.

Kentucky Derby winners

Bob Baffert has started 34 horses in the Kentucky Derby between 1996 and 2021. He almost won the Kentucky Derby the very first time he showed up, with Cavonnier getting nosed out by late-running Grindstone.

However, he got his first win the very next year, and has won the race six times in all. Only two of his six Kentucky Derby winners have been betting favorites, though both of those horses went on to sweep the Triple Crown.

Bob Baffert’s Kentucky Derby winners include:

Year
Horse
Jockey
Win Margin
Payoff
1997Silver CharmGary Stevenshead$10.00
1998Real QuietKent Desormeaux½ length$18.80
2002War EmblemVictor Espinoza4 lengths$43.00
2015American PharoahVictor Espinoza1 length$7.80 (favorite)
2018JustifyMike Smith2 ½ lengths$7.80 (favorite)
2020AuthenticJohn Velazquez1 ¼ lengths$18.80

Medina Spirit crossed the wire first in 2021, but was eventually disqualified due to a positive test after the race.

Kentucky Derby controversy

Baffert has not been without controversy, especially as the Kentucky Derby is concerned.

A filly he trained, Gamine, was disqualified from a third-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks in 2020 due to a positive test for betamethasone. The next spring, his putative Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, tested positive for the same substance. A legal battle ensued, with Baffert and owner Zedan Racing Stables maintaining that the betamethasone found in Medina Spirit’s test was due to a skin ointment and not a joint injection, and arguing that was permissible.

Afterwards, Churchill Downs suspended Baffert for two years, retaining the option to extend the suspension. In the summer of 2023, at the two-year mark, Churchill Downs exercised that option. He is currently suspended from racetracks owned by Churchill Downs at least until the end of 2024.

Amr Zedan, principal of Zedan Racing Stables, has continued to send top-class horses to Baffert, including Grade 1 winners Taiba, Arabian Knight, and Arabian Lion. Zedan also owns Muth, who was the morning-line favorite in the Preakness but was scratched Wednesday morning. Zedan filed a lawsuit to get Muth into the Kentucky Derby. A Jefferson County Circuit Court judge ruled against Zedan, with the Kentucky Court of Appeals denying a request for an emergency hearing.

Preakness Stakes

Bob Baffert has run 25 horses in the Preakness Stakes between 1996 and 2023. As often as he wins the Derby, he has an even stronger record when he brings those top sophomores to Pimlico Race Course. Baffert has won the second jewel of the Triple Crown eight times, a record he holds alone. Although only four of his eight winners have been the betting favorite, all of his winners have been well bet, with the $8.20 bounty on Silver Charm being the most lucrative win payout of any Preakness Stakes winner from his barn.

These are Bob Baffert’s Preakness Stakes winners:

Year
Horse
Jockey
Win Margin
Payoff
1997Silver CharmGary Stevenshead$8.20
1998Real QuietKent Desormeaux2 ¼ lengths$7.00
2001Point GivenGary Stevens2 ¼ lengths$6.60 (favorite)
2002War EmblemVictor Espinoza¾ length$7.60 (favorite)
2010Lookin at LuckyMartin Garcia3/4$6.80
2015American PharoahVictor Espinoza7 lengths$3.80 (favorite)
2018JustifyMike Smith½ length$2.80 (favorite)
View Full Table

Belmont Stakes

Compared to the other races in the Triple Crown, Bob Baffert has sent out the fewest by far in the Belmont Stakes. He has only sent 13 starters to the Test of the Champion between 1996 and 2023, just over half as many as he has run in the Preakness Stakes. He also has the fewest winners in the Belmont Stakes, with three of his starters making it to the winners’ circle. All three of those winners, however, were heavy betting favorites.

These are Bob Baffert’s Belmont Stakes winners:

Year
Horse
Jockey
Win Margin
Payoff
2001Point GivenGary Stevens12 ¼ lengths$4.70 (favorite)
2015American PharoahVictor Espinoza5 ½ lengths$3.50 (favorite)
2018JustifyMike Smith1 ¾ lengths$3.60 (favorite)

Entrants in the 2024 Preakness Stakes

The 2024 Preakness Stakes is coming up on Saturday, May 18 at Pimlico Race Course. Bob Baffert entered a pair of horses in the Preakness Stakes in 2024, though only one of them will actually run.

Muth

Off of a confident victory in the Arkansas Derby (G1) over both Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan and Just Steel, Muth was named the morning-line favorite in the 2024 Preakness Stakes. However, Muth spiked a fever Wednesday morning and was declared out. Baffert hopes to point Muth toward the final Triple Crown race of the year, the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga, if he recovers quickly enough.

Imagination

With the scratch of Muth, the only horse Bob Baffert will have in the Preakness Stakes is Imagination. Also ineligible for the Kentucky Derby, Imagination was last seen finishing a neck short of Stronghold in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). In the start before that, he won the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita Park. That race was a veritable “battle of the Bob Baffert horses”: in a field scratched down to four after the defection of now-sidelined stablemate Nysos, Imagination held off stablemate Wine Me Up to win by half a length, with third-place Mc Vay over half a dozen lengths in arrears.

To Imagination’s credit, he also has tactical speed, and got a good outside draw for his running style. He has always been on or near the lead in his races, and he has shown the ability to battle on the pace and box on. That is the kind of running style that works well at Pimlico. The biggest question is class: the horses he has been facing are not proven at the same level as some of the horses that other horses in the Preakness have been facing. And, even though his damsire Empire Maker is a nice stamina influence, his female family skews toward shorter distances.

There is also the question of his rider. That seems an odd thing to say since his rider is Frankie Dettori, who has been one of the world’s leading riders for many years, but Dettori has a lot more experience riding on the grass than on the lawn. He has ridden Imagination for Bob Baffert in his last two starts, so there is some rapport and experience there, but this will be Dettori’s first time riding in the Preakness Stakes, and he will be facing riders with more experience over the Pimlico strip.


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