November 8, 2016

Meeting Bob Baffert

I have so much I haven't written about.  I don't realize how much my new job kicks my ass until I look at how my posting frequency has dropped off lately.  Hoping to fix that, even if it just means I draft a whole bunch on Sundays.  Enjoy some old news!

To cap off our all-horse weekend in September, my mom and I ended up seeing Bob Baffert speak at Indiana State University on Monday evening, thanks to a tipoff from Austen (who used to work there).  This recap is going to end up being total word vomit, no apologies!

It was generally geared toward college students trying to discover their identity and find out what they want to do for a career, but not so much so that it was annoying.

He took us through his early years of not knowing what he wanted to do in his life and substitute teaching after graduation because he needed money.  This was a pretty formative experience for him: he didn't know what he was doing, made up the rules as he went along, and actually did end up commanding respect from one of the most unruly classes in the school using some really unconventional methods - but he joked that he knew he wanted students that couldn't talk back from then on.

Then he took us through his start in Quarter Horse racing, and then to his stumbling into Thoroughbreds.  He had two main ideas: one is that you can always learn something from anyone.  He's a relentless information seeker, and came up in Thoroughbreds in the pre-internet days, and he said he'd ask tons of questions to anyone who would let him - successful trainers, not so successful trainers, breeders, pony riders - literally anyone.

The other interesting line he told when someone asked him what his biggest mistake was.  He said "You have to learn to trust your gut, even when other people question you," and then backed it up with some cool stories.  Stories from when he was young, and stories from when we would know him.  I can't remember which really famous horse it was (should've written this up much earlier than two months late!),  but he saw a horse that would go on to be Derby caliber at an auction, wanted him instinctively, and then got talked out of it by someone that "knew better."

Finally, he got pretty emotional at the end in the Q&A.  Talking about all of his Derby winners, how much he loved Silver Charm, and finally, talking about the big man.

My mom meeting AP, April 2016

Through it all, you could hear how much he genuinely cared about each horse just by the way he talked, but when he got to American Pharoah, he got a bit choked up and very emotional.  He talked about how he never stops pushing himself to be better, there's always another goal to chase.  And then AP came around and took him on the wildest trip of his life, achieving all the goals any racing trainer could hope to achieve and being just a supernaturally talented and kind horse to share the stable with.  And he said he went through some depression after he retired him, because where do you go from American Pharoah?  And how do you make up for that big of a hole in your life?  Little by little, the talented horses in his stable have inspired him to keep pushing, but he didn't pretend it was easy to have American Pharoah walk out of his life and into the breeding shed.

He said he doesn't get asked to speak much so he was honored to have been asked by ISU, which surprised me.  If you do get a chance to hear him speak, I highly recommend it.  His speech was a little stiff, but he really opened up and was himself in the Q&A, and both were amazing insights into what it's like to be a top caliber trainer, and how he got there.


  1. What a great experience! Would love to hear him speak.

  2. Wow, what an experience! I used to obsessively follow TB racing and Bob Baffert was one of my idols.

  3. That is so awesome! I got really close to Bob Baffert at Saratoga Travers weekend but fangirled to muteness before I could even say hi or ask for a picture.

  4. I've always had the impression that Baffert was one of the "good guys" in tb training. Winning the Classic last weekend might help raise his spirits a bit after Pharaoh's retirement lol. I love that he didn't race Arrogate as a three year old to let his maturity catch up with his body.

    So cool you got to meet him!

  5. Sounds like a very cool speech!

  6. That is so cool!! And so jealous you guys got to meet AP. I love seeing pictures of him retired on facebook.

  7. Bob's a character all right! He's interesting to talk to in the morning at the Clockers' Corner works, I've visited his barn a few times with a friend of mine who is an owner (not of any of his horses). And you managed to get a shot of him without his sunglasses.