Thursday’s Eye on the Ball radio show on KVOI (1030-AM) included Arizona alum and world-renowned horse trainer Bob Baffert, who trained Triple Crown winners American Pharoah (2015) and Triple Crown winner Justify (2018).
His horses have also won five Kentucky Derbies, seven Preakness Stakes and three Belmont Stakes.
The Triple Crown in horse racing is on, scheduled without fans for now because of COVID-19. Baffert is training three horses this year that have a shot at the Triple Crown — Charlatan, Nadal and Authentic.
“It’s fun but it’s unfortunate — I had them right on schedule for the May race (Kentucky Derby), but we just have to deal with what you have,” Baffert told co-hosts Steve Rivera of AllSportsTucson.com and Jay Gonzales.
The New York Racing Association announced Tuesday that the Belmont Stakes will be June 20, with no fans. The race, two weeks later than normal, will be contested at a shorter distance: 1 1/8 miles as opposed to the usual 1 1/2. And for the first time in Triple Crown history, the Belmont Stakes will be the first leg instead of the last.
The Kentucky Derby previously had been moved from its traditional first-Saturday-in-May slot to Sept. 5. Last Saturday, the Preakness announced its relocation from mid-May to Oct. 3.
Baffert talks about the different challenge of training the horses with a more extended time between the Triple Crown races, training horses from low cost to making them worth millions, his horses named after Arizona namesakes Midnight Lute, Candrea, Hot Sean and Stoops and his background becoming a trainer from his upbringing at Nogales.
“It was my father’s dream,” Baffert said. “He loved horses and he had a passion for it. I just happened to be at a young age and I went with him. I remember the first track we went to was Sonoita, Arizona. To me, that was first Saturday in May, that was our derby, to be at Sonoita.
“And then going to Rillito every weekend with him when I was like 12 years old, 11, 12 years old, hanging out there and seeing all these old-timers and stuff. Rillito, that’s where I got started. Every time I go to Tucson, I always drive by there just to check it out, a little nostalgia, get out and look at it.”
Here is the interview with Baffert: