Horse Racing

Big day at Belmont Park for Arizona alums Baffert and Pletcher

Just two years ago, Arizona alum Bob Baffert had quite an afternoon at Belmont Park, when his American Pharaoh ran away from the field in the Belmont Stakes to become the first Triple Crown winner in nearly 30 years.

He didn’t have another Triple Crown winner, but Baffert had another phenomenal day Saturday at Belmont Park.

All four of Baffert’s horses won races at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Belmont Park.

“I’ll never top that day,” Baffert told reporters of his Triple Crown victory. “But this day is pretty huge. It’s pretty big for us, mainly the horses.”

Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program had another distinguished alum — trainer Todd Pletcher — have a successful day as his Tapwrit won the Belmont Stakes. It’s Pletcher’s third Belmont Stakes victory.

Pletcher took two of the three Triple Crown races with his Always Dreaming winning the Kentucky Derby last month.

“I think each of these races individually stand on their own as major, major races and huge wins,” Pletcher said in a press conference. “You know, the Derby win was awesome … We felt really good coming in actually that both horses were doing very well, and we felt like both horses suited the mile-and-a-half distance. They have the right running styles, they have the right disposition, right pedigrees, so we were just fortunate it fell into place.”

Baffert started Saturday with three-year-old West Coast winning Race 2, the Easy Goer Stakes. West Coast ran the 1 1/6 miles in 1 minute, 41.50 seconds. Baffert’s Abel Tasman then won the fourth race, the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes, a one-mile race on dirt.

He won again, with American Anthem in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes. His last victory occurred with Mor Spirit winning the Grade 1 Mohegan Sun Metropolitan Handicap, which carried a $1.2 million purse.

Mor Spirit is a four-year-old with four career first-place finishes.

“That was pretty impressive, I have to admit,” Baffert said of Mor Spirit’s victory. “All my horses were impressive today, but this horse, the way he ran today, how fast he ran it, was incredible.”

“I’m so proud of these horses. On a big day like this, for them to run like this, it’s pretty incredible.”

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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