Bob Baffert’s Belmonts: The Great, The Bad, The Ugly

By US Racing Team

Drama? In the Belmont Stakes? Can you say Bob Baffert?

Not only has racing’s record-setting trainer saddled two Triple Crown winners over the past nine years but he also has come agonizingly close to a trio of Kentucky Derby-Preakness-Belmont sweeps between 1997-2002.

On Saturday (June 10), the Hall of Famer with a record 17 Triple Crown race wins, a record-equaling six Derby victories, a record eight Preakness wins, and three Belmont wins, will saddle Preakness winner National Treasure in the 155th edition of the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Baffert has also been among the most controversial trainers in the sport. He thought he had a record seventh Derby victory but Medina Spirit, who finished first in 2021, was disqualified after a post-race test found an overage of a medication. Baffert’s two-year suspension from Churchill Downs-owned tracks ended after last month’s Derby.

Most recently, Baffert-trainee Havnameltdown broke down during a race on the Preakness undercard and was euthanized on the track. A few hours later, National Treasure won the Preakness in Baffert’s first Triple Crown race since the 2021 Preakness Stakes.

Bob Baffert – Photo courtesy of Laura Green / Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia

Baffert says one of his toughest beats was Point Given’s loss in the 2001 Derby (the colt then won the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes). At Belmont Park, though, he’s experienced the thrill of victory and agony of defeat more than a half-dozen times in the “Test of the Champion.”

Bob Baffert’s Belmont Stakes Contenders

Let’s look:

Cavonnier (1996)

Baffert’s first foray into the Triple Crown arena saw his Cavonnier lose to Grindstone in a photo finish, run fourth in the Preakness and then get pulled up and vanned off in the Belmont Stakes. The gelding returned to the races two years later and finished his career with a record of 23-8-3-2.

Silver Charm (1997)

With a Triple Crown on the line, Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm was the darling of the racing world. Seemingly on his way to history after reeling in Free House with an eighth of a mile left on the Belmont, Silver Charm was caught by Touch Gold with about 75 yards to go and was beaten three-quarters of a length.

Real Quiet (1998)

It got worse for Baffert the next year. Real Quiet began staggering home in the final furlong and Victory Gallop bore down. The two hit the wire together. The photo finish went against Real Quiet, whose jockey Kent Desormeaux was criticized for moving too early.

Point Given (2001)

At this point, Baffert said he thought Point Given should have been a Triple Crown winner. He moved into a winning position in the Derby but flattened out in the stretch and ended up fifth, then dominated the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, Haskell Stakes , and Travers Stakes to earn Horse of the Year honors.

War Emblem (2002)

Back for yet another Triple try, Baffert’s front-running speedster was done early. A front-runner, War Emblem stumbled out of the gate and finished eighth behind 70-1 longshot Sarava.

American Pharoah (2015)

Finally, after 37 years, a Triple Crown winner, and of course, it had to be Baffert. With a huge Belmont Stakes crowd roaring as American Pharoah took command in the stretch, the superstar romped to a 5 ½-length victory and became the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

“Down the backside, he was in his groove, and I knew that if he’s a great horse, he’s going to do it. He’s just a great horse. It takes a great horse to do it,’’ Baffert said.

Justify (2018)

If one Triple Crown wasn’t enough, Baffert was back for more three years later with Justify. Undefeated coming into the race, Justify took the lead at the start and never wavered, winning by 1 ¾ lengths.

“This never gets old,” Baffert said after the race. “American Pharoah, he’ll always be my first love. For this horse to do it for (jockey) Mike Smith, he deserved something like this. It feels pretty good. He is a superior horse. He could have won every race on the undercard today, he’s just that kind of horse.”

And the others

He’s had other Belmont starters, with the filly Silverbulletday running seventh in 1999; Bob and John eighth in 2006; Game on Dude fourth in 2010; and Paynter second in 2012.

2023 Belmont Stakes Contenders, Odds and Post Positions

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
1 Tapit Shoes 3-1 Brad H. Cox Jose Ortiz
2 Tapit Trice 3-1 Todd A. Pletcher Luis Saez
3 Arcangelo 8-1 Jena M. Antonucci Javier Castellano
4 National Treasure 5-1 Bob Baffert John R. Velazquez
5 Il Miracolo 30-1 Antonio Sano Marcos Meneses
6 Forte 5-2 Todd A. Pletcher Irad Ortiz, Jr.
7 Hit Show 10-1 Brad H. Cox Manuel Franco
8 Angel of Empire 7-2 Brad H. Cox Flavien Prat
9 Red Route One 15-1 Steve M. Asmussen Joel Rosario


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