Horse Racing

Arizona alums Baffert, Pletcher experience banner weekend at Churchill Downs

Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program must feel like the Harvard Law School this weekend — can’t get much better than that.

Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert — graduates of the program as part of the Animal Sciences department — were significant winners at Churchill Downs this weekend.

Pletcher’s Always Dreaming led from start to finish to win the Kentucky Derby yesterday. Always Dreaming was one of three horses in the Kentucky Derby that Pletcher trains. Taprwrit (sixth-place finisher) and Patch (14th) are the other two.

Pletcher, 49, previously won a Kentucky Derby in 2010 with Super Saver.

Baffert won the $1 million Kentucky Oaks on Friday at Churchill Downs with Abel Tasman. The normally reserved Baffert was so excited about the win that he did a celebratory dab, similar to what Carolina quarterback Cam Newton does after throwing a touchdown pass.

“That was just a release,” the trainer joked with media. “We don’t dab for every stakes race.”

Baffert was thrilled considering Abel Tasman was far back at one point before regrouping in the 14-horse field entering the stretch. Baffert then flew back to his Southern California home and watched the Derby on television.

He did not have a horse in the Derby field because Mastery fractured an ankle during a prep race during the winter at Santa Anita. Baffert has missed the Derby just twice since 2009. His four victories are tied for second-most in history.

Baffert, who trained Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015, trained Always Dreaming’s sire, Bodemeister. Bodemeister placed second in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Pletcher, from Dallas, attended Arizona from 1985-89 as part of the Race Track Industry Program.
Baffert, a Nogales native, was part of it through 1975. Both have Animal Sciences degrees from Arizona.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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