BOB BAFFERT: IN THE GOAT CONVERSATION

In organized sports, elite achievers throughout their careers are voted into a Hall of Fame, or will be enshrined once they retire.  These are the greats whose names are immortalized.

However, reaching a consensus on the GOAT, or the “Greatest of All Time” is an impossible task, as greats from different eras can’t be compared against one another with any degree of certitude.

For example, who is the GOAT in their respective sports:  Vince Lombardi or Bill Belichick, LeBron James or Michael Jordan, Joe Montana or Tom Brady, Muhammad Ali or Joe Louis, Sandy Koufax or Cy Young—or somebody else?  A preponderance of horse racing experts believe that Man o’ War and Secretariat are the two best racehorses in American turf history but have differing opinions about which horse was the GOAT.

Bob Baffert’s attainments make him a legitimate contender for the GOAT title in training racehorses in North America…and his work is unfinished.  Baffert’s astounding achievements include having his horses win a Triple Crown, five Kentucky Derbys, six Preaknesses, two Belmonts, fourteen Breeders’ Cup races, with three Breeders’ Cup Classics, and three Dubai World Cups.

Were Baffert to send out the winner of another Kentucky Derby, he would tie Ben A. Jones for the most wins.  At age 65 and with owners wanting to send him outstanding prospects, that seems like a realistic possibility.

Baffert also has a reasonable shot with Justify, or perhaps a future star, at joining Jones and James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons in training two Triple Crown champions.  (Fitzsimmons conditioned Gallant Fox and Omaha and Jones trained Whirlaway and Citation.)  Baffert came ever-so-close to winning a Triple Crown with Real Quiet in 1998 and then did so with American Pharoah in 2015.

Like all exceptionally successful individuals in any field of endeavor, Baffert draws criticism, often from envious people.  But an objective observer, looking at the facts and leaving emotion aside, would conclude that he is among a handful of the greatest American racehorse trainers.  In the words of NFL Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, “You are what your record says you are.”

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