No trainer not named Ben Jones has dominated the first Saturday in May like Robert A. “Bob” Baffert. Since 1996, the former Quarter Horse conditioner from Nogales, AZ, has sent out 26 Kentucky Derby starters and visited the Churchill Downs winner’s circle four times following the big race. His charges have also finished second three times and third another three times. What’s more, he’s one of just 10 trainers to have won horse racing’s coveted Triple Crown, a feat he accomplished just last year with American Pharoah.
This year, Baffert’s Derby ammunition looks limited. One of his top hopes, Cupid, was recently withdrawn from consideration after a dismal performance in the Arkansas Derby, which was blamed on an entrapped epiglottis (a breathing problem). Cupid was scheduled to have surgery at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, KY on Monday and, if all goes well, the son of Tapit will be pointed to the Preakness Stakes on May 21.
That leaves Mor Spirit as Baffert’s only likely Derby starter at this point. Although the son of Eskendereya is flying under the radar, he hasn’t escaped the attention of bettors, as he’s been favored in every start of his career and comes to Louisville fresh off a second-place finish to Exaggerator in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby.