If it's Derby prep season, count on Baffert to be all in
Training horses in L.A. one morning, gabbing with NFL Hall of Famers in San Francisco the next, then back home again to prepare his latest Kentucky Derby contenders for a prep race at Santa Anita.
And, oh, yes. After Saturday's Robert B. Lewis Stakes, Bob Baffert plans to show up for the Super Bowl in Santa Clara, California, on Sunday.
The trainer of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is back on the Derby trail, and before the Panthers and Broncos play in the Super Bowl, Baffert will send out favorite Mor Spirit and Let's Meet in Rio in the Lewis.
''Mor Spirit, he's probably my No. 1 contender,'' Baffert said of his Los Alamitos Futurity winner who is making his 3-year-old debut.
Let's Meet in Rio finished second in the Sham Stakes on Jan. 9, beaten by Collected, another of Baffert's many Derby prospects.
''Collected is going to run in the Southwest Stakes,'' the trainer said of the Feb. 15 Derby prep at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. ''So we're looking forward to him.''
Baffert gabbed with the likes of Dan Marino and Marcus Allen and sat in on a slew of talk radio shows Thursday. But for all his Super Bowl fun, he knows the time is now when 3-year-olds begin to show whether they have what it takes to earn a spot in the Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 7.
''This is when you start heading to the deeper part of the pool,'' Baffert said earlier in the week.
The 1 1/16-mile Lewis drew a field of seven. Taking on Baffert's duo are I Will Score, Dressed in Hermes, Laoban, Path of David and Uncle Lino.
Mor Spirit, bred in Pennsylvania, has two wins and two seconds in four career starts. He will be ridden by Gary Stevens.
''He's just getting better and better,'' Baffert said. ''So we expect a pretty good effort. He's moving the right way.''
Let's Meet in Rio will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux.
After the Lewis, the next preps are the El Camino Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 13, and the Southwest two days later.
The road to the Derby consists of 35 races with a points system. If more than the maximum of 20 are entered, point totals determine the field.
Nyquist, the 2-year-old champion, tops the leaderboard with 30 points, followed by Mohaymen (20), Sunny Ridge (18), Exaggerator (16) and Flexibility (15). Mor Spirit is one of three horses with 14 points.
Currently, the points structure is 10 for first, four for second, two for third and one for fourth. The next increase begins with the Risen Star at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 20. The points jump to 50-20-10-5.
Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report from San Francisco.
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