3 reasons Bob Baffert has had successful 2022 despite troubles

No one person in horse racing has been under more scrutiny than two-time Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert. Given his numerous suspensions and Medina’s Spirit disqualification in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, it is clear racing officials are keeping an eye on Baffert’s barn for any violations.

Despite his troubles though, Baffert has had mostly a successful year, even after serving a midseason 90-day suspension by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission honored by all other racetracks nationwide.  

Below are three reasons Baffert enjoyed a successful 2022.

1. Country Grammer/Dubai World Cup

When browsing through Baffert’s top horses by earnings for the year, the final amount for Country Grammer sticks out by a mile compared to his other horses. Why? Earlier this year, Country Grammer won the $12 million Dubai World Cup and ran second in the $20 million Saudi Cup.

Country Grammer then went on his own break during Baffert’s 90-day suspension. Under Baffert, Country Grammer came back with three straight runner-up finishes in the San Diego Handicap (G2), Pacific Classic (G1) and Awesome Again Stakes (G1) to help reach total 2022 earnings of $10,780,000 in five starts.

In terms of form, Country Grammer also ran roughly the same numbers after Baffert’s suspension. Despite finishing second in the Pacific Classic, Country Grammer put in one of his better efforts figure-wise with a 130 TimeformUS Speed Figure. Even though he ran well at Del Mar, the race was a unique situation where he ran against a near-invincible Flightline and turned in a winning effort despite losing by double-digit lengths.

With $10.7 million in the bank, Country Grammer helped pad Baffert’s earnings enough to make it a successful year for him money-wise.

2. Taiba

Taiba began his career under Baffert in March with a smashing 7 1/2-length win at Santa Anita in a six-furlong maiden race. He then won his first graded stakes race in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) under Tim Yakteen.

Under Yakteen, Taiba took an obligatory shot at the Kentucky Derby, but he ended up fading to 12th after chasing a suicidal pace. Taiba then took a short break and did not return until Baffert took him back in time for the Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth in late July, where Taiba ran a close second to a proven Grade 1 winner in Cyberknife.

Two months later, Taiba turned the tables on Cyberknife by winning the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). In that race, the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) winner and third-place Kentucky Derby finisher Zandon finished second. Also, Taiba earned a huge 131 TimeformUS Speed Figure for his second Grade 1 win.

In November, Taiba finished a good third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which became near impossible for any other horse to win with Flightline in the field.

Taiba will also start as the favorite Monday in the Malibu Stakes (G1).

Baffert guided Taiba well throughout the months he was not suspended and deserves most of the credit for developing this colt in the right way.

Even though Taiba failed in the Kentucky Derby under Yakteen, the reason was more due to Taiba’s inexperience than the trainer switch to Yakteen. Taiba prevailed in the Santa Anita Derby with only two real opponents in Messier and Forbidden Kingdom, while the Derby had a 20-horse stampede. 

In other words, if Baffert had started Taiba in the Kentucky Derby, Taiba’s inexperience would lead to the same finish. 

3. Exciting 2-year-old horses

The post 90-day suspension version of Baffert still has plenty of exciting 2-year-old horses that might develop into Kentucky Derby contenders, even though they won’t be able to race under his name unless Baffert’s two-year suspension at Churchill Downs is reversed. 

Until the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, many handicappers argued Baffert had the best 2-year-old in Cave Rock, who impressed observers with dominating victories in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and American Pharoah Stakes (G1).  

Cave Rock finished second in the Juvenile, but he turned in a good effort.

Baffert also trains Arabian Knight, who broke his maiden with a smashing 7 1/4-length win in a Keeneland maiden race on the Breeders’ Cup undercard. Once Arabian Knight starts in a real prep race for Baffert and shows his talents around two turns, he might become the new top Derby prospect.

But the list does not stop there. Until his disappointing effort in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), Arabian Lion was thought of in the same light as Arabian Knight after he ran second against Giant Mischief in a fast Keeneland optional claiming race where they both ran a 114 on TimeformUS.

National Treasure has shown some talent with a runner-up finish in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Baffert’s talent in the 2-year-old category always runs deep and this year felt no different, despite the controversies and suspensions tied to him. That said, his best Derby contenders will need to switch to another trainer for the final prep race in order to earn any Derby points if the Churchill Downs suspension stands.