Schmuck: Bob Baffert is still charmed by Charm City and wants Preakness to stay at Old Hilltop

Schmuck: Bob Baffert is still charmed by Charm City and wants Preakness to stay at Old Hilltop

When Triple Crown-winning coach Bob Baffert talks about the Preakness and the embattled racetrack that has hosted it for 144 years, his eyes mild up. When he hears hypothesis in regards to the race presumably shifting out of Baltimore, it’s a distinct story.

“You hear rumors, ‘Well, they’re going to move it’ or whatever,’’ he said Wednesday. “To me, it’s magical in here. There’s something about it. I’ve been watching it since I was 10, 11 years old. You think of Jim McKay. You think of the Preakness. There’s so much history here.”

Three years after American Pharoah handed by way of city on the way in which to horse racing’s first Triple Crown since 1978, Baffert is again with Justify — one other tremendous horse that is posted as a 1-2 favourite to take the second step towards one other.

Maybe one other Triple Crown wouldn’t change all that a lot for Baffert. He’s already revered as one in all best trainers within the historical past of the game. But the sturdy chance of one other Triple Crown so quickly after Pharoah’s historic triumph definitely provides to the aura surrounding the Preakness at a time when its future continues to be debated.

Baffert is glad for that. He has been a Baltimore booster for a very long time and it’s not simply public relations fluff.

The first time I met him was an opportunity encounter at Hollywood Park within the 1990s. I used to be only a baseball author on vacation betting the horses with a buddy who turned out to be a mutual buddy. He launched me as a author from Baltimore and Baffert instantly started praising Charm City as if he grew up there or labored for the Chamber of Commerce.

This was 20 years in the past, in regards to the time he gained his first Kentucky Derby and Preakness and got here up lower than a size in need of profitable the Triple Crown in 1997 with Silver Charm. He already had shaped an opinion of Baltimore that has not wavered despite the ugly headlines which have tarnished the town’s popularity since then.

He’s not alone. The trainers and jockeys who come right here for the third weekend in May rave in regards to the hospitality. In a well-known post-race interview right here in 2014, California Chrome proprietor Steve Coburn was so impressed with Pimlico that he overtly criticized Churchill Downs for the way in which his group was handled throughout Derby week.

“I’ve said this once, I’ve said it 50 times, Churchill Downs needs to call Maryland to get a lesson in hospitality,” Coburn stated. “Because these people right here, they’ve treated us like we’re royalty, and I can’t say thank you enough.”

That doesn’t imply one other website could be unable to duplicate that sort of environment, however there aren’t many tracks that might accommodate the enormous crowd that populates the grandstand, the infield and the company tents. There aren’t any that don’t already host a Triple Crown race that might match the historic significance of Pimlico.

Legendary coach D. Wayne Lukas, who will saddle Bravazo and Sporting Chance on Saturday, is a straight talker who isn’t afraid to take a place on a topic as essential to horse racing as the way forward for the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

“Yeah. I feel they want to depart it right here,’’ he stated. “I feel they want to take a 143 years of custom and glad individuals who come to take pleasure in it and depart it proper the place it is. I’d actually be disillusioned. The barn space. The hospitality. The followers take pleasure in this. That grandstand’s previous, nevertheless it’s snug for lots of people.

“And what they’ve completed right here on the infield is pretty much as good as anywhere within the Triple Crown. Even Churchill doesn’t have this facility within the infield. They have some, however not as a lot. I feel after 143 years of glad clients, I’d depart it alone. I wouldn’t idiot with it.”

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Read extra from columnist Peter Schmuck on his weblog, “The Schmuck Stops Here,” at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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