In new role, Baffert gets familiar outcome

As `Crown' spoiler, trainer earns 3rd Preakness win

May 20, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Bob Baffert was casually taking a call on his cell phone during his post-Preakness news conference yesterday. He fielded questions and then excused himself, saying "a big, white, delicious cake is waiting."

Two weeks was long enough for the attention not to be on the trainer from California, and it was long enough for his powerful horse, Point Given, a favorite at the Kentucky Derby who finished a disappointing fifth, to make amends by winning the 126th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

Icing on the cake came with the third-place finish of his other horse, Congaree.

But this, Baffert's third Preakness victory, was much different from the first two. With Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in '98, Baffert won the Preakness after Kentucky Derby victories, leaving questions of Triple Crown bids that proved unsuccessful.

This time, Baffert and his imposing horse were the spoilers, with Derby winner Monarchos unable to achieve the second leg of the Triple Crown.

"I think when I came in with those other ones, I just won the Kentucky Derby, so we were still flying high," Baffert said. "I was really excited about this one because I hadn't won one in a while.

"Winning is a great feeling, walking up here knowing you have a chance to compete at this level, you have a chance to win the Preakness. And the classics are great - there's nothing like them."

The post-race questions this time were not about the Triple Crown, but about redemption and what happened at the Derby.

"At least we know he is the horse we thought he was," Baffert said. "We never had any doubts, but we were all puzzled. Churchill Downs is a weird strip and sometimes horses aren't comfortable. He didn't look comfortable that day."

After having started from the No. 17 hole in the Derby, Point Given again drew the outside post - No. 11 - yesterday. With 3 1/2 furlongs left, Point Given overtook third-place finisher Congaree to pull out the win by 2 1/4 lengths.

"I just wish [owner] Prince [Ahmed Salman] could have been here to be a part of this," Baffert said. "I didn't lose confidence in this horse. I loved the work at Churchill early this week. I knew at the quarter pole he was going to win."

Said Gary Stevens, Point Given's jockey: "I knew going into the first turn the race was over. He was taking to the track perfectly today. I can't understand or explain what happened at Churchill Downs, but the horse I rode today didn't show up at Churchill."

Baltimore Bob

Baffert's Preakness record

Trainer Bob Baffert's Preakness victory yesterday was his third in only six years (DNF-did not finish):

Year Horse Finish

1996 Cavonnier 4th

1997 Silver Charm 1st

1998 Real Quiet 1st

1999 Excellent Meeting DNF

2000 Captain Steve 4th

2001 Point Given 1st, Congaree 3rd

Baffert gains on top Preakness trainers

Baffert is tied for sixth for Preakness victories by a trainer:

Trainer Wins

Robert W. Walden 7

Thomas J. Healey 5

D. Wayne Lukas 5

James Fitzsimmons 4

H.A. "Jimmy" Jones 4

Bob Baffert 3

James Whalen 3

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