The time has arrived. You can say it is like a poker game, or a rope-a-dope boxing maneuver. When you hear trainers praising the works and deeds of another, well, that is where the music begins.
Todd Pletcher has Eskendereya primed and ready. The works have not been stellar, and you must get a work or breeze over Churchill Downs before the big day. The “Todd-Squad” is loaded for bear. It seems that he picks up another runner everyday. As with our interview with Mike Battaglia on Thursday, he is 0-24 in the Derby. But, Battaglia was quick to point out that was over nine runnings. None of the time did he have the quality of runners he has this year, and he finished in the money with sweet price runners.
Bob Baffert. He is a riverboat gambler who styles around in blue blazers and jeans. He is quick with a quip, and knows how to win. This year, he has a runner Lookin At Lucky. He had an excellent work on Wednesday, and this is a good sign. He had a bit of trouble in the Santa Anita Derby, but that was the fault of the rider. He knows it, and that is in the past. He can fight Victor Espinoza at a date to be determined by Vegas odds-makers. But, until then, he will relish the role of not being the focus runner. He is not the favorite, and that can be a load off your shoulders. Baffert could not have been happier with his work. He knows his colt, and he knows how fragile this time can be. Do you remember Point Given? How he looked, smelled, and tasted the part. A questionable ride by Gary Stevens can be called into play. Stevens was talking about Point Given on a backside TV portion, where he visited some of his champion mounts. He began to get teary eyed when he stood next to PG. He knew, and so did the horse. He knew he moved too quickly, and that cost him the Triple Crown.
I can remember seeing him for the first time in the paddock at Turfway Park. I was doing a radio show, and saw him schooling. He looked like a three-year-old at two. He was a monster, and the connections were hot. I caught him at a better price, and my co-host went another way. Point became my Derby horse, and the rest is history.
Dana Barnes worked out Lucky, and Baffert was feeling so good. He didn’t brag on his runner, but opted to talk about Eskendereya. This is the little dance on the trail. It is like any sport where you praise the other team. You downplay yours, and put the load on the favorite. I would rather be in Bob’s shoes. Todd has many things to get done, and the media will be on him like a cheap suit.
B.B. can relax, and play around with media. This is where he is at his best. Baffert is a court jester who can lull you to sleep. He will come over on Derby Day without the weight of being the chalk. He is working good, and doing his thing. I like his chances, and maybe you should start paying attention if he seems a little aloof or pretends to be unprepared. This is like a snake pretending to be asleep right before he strikes. Baffert is good, and there is no doubt about that. Just watch, and take it all in……