The Neiman Award Recipients
Bob Baffert, 2019 Recipient
Robert A. "Bob" Baffert is widely recognized as one of the most successful trainers in the history of horse racing. Baffert trained Triple Crown winners, Justify (2018) and American Pharoah (2015). His horses have won five Kentucky Derbies, seven Preakness Stakes, three Belmont Stakes. He was voted the Eclipse Outstanding Trainer four times (1997, 1998, 1999 and 2015). He was inducted into Thoroughbred racing’s national Hall of Fame (2009) and the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame (2010).
Born in Nogales, Ariz., on Jan. 13, 1953, Bob Baffert grew up on his family’s cattle ranch near the Mexico border. He got his start with horses at age 10, grooming and galloping Quarter Horses owned by his father, and he later gave his father the first Eclipse Award trophy that he received. In his teens, he worked as a jockey at informal Quarter Horse races on the outskirts of Nogales. By age 20, he had developed a reputation as a trainer. He graduated from the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program with a Bachelor of Science degree, and began training quarter horses at a Prescott, Arizona farm. He recorded his first win as a trainer in 1971. In the 1980s, Baffert moved to California and worked at Los Alamitos Race Course, where he switched to training Thoroughbreds. He got his first big break in 1992 when he won his first Breeder's Cup race with Thirty Slews.
Baffert's history in the American classic races began in 1996 with Cavonnier, who ran second in the Kentucky Derby. In 1997, he trained Silver Charm to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, finishing second in the Belmont. Baffert revisited the Derby the next year, winning with Real Quiet. Real Quiet won the Preakness, but, like Silver Charm, the horse was denied a Triple Crown win and finished second in the Belmont Stakes by a nose. Baffert, however, became the first trainer in history to win the Derby and Preakness in back-to-back years.
Baffert did not win another classic race until 2001, when he swept the Preakness and Belmont Stakes with Point Given. Baffert won the Derby a third time the following year with War Emblem. The colt went on to win the Preakness Stakes, giving the trainer his third shot at winning the Triple Crown. The colt lost the Belmont Stakes. Eight years later in 2010, Baffert trained Lookin At Lucky, co-owned by longtime client and good friend Mike Pegram, to win the Preakness Stakes.
In 2015, Baffert trained the champion two-year-old American Pharoah to win the Triple Crown, the first to do so in 37 years. The win was the fourth attempt at a Triple Crown for Baffert, who at age 62 became the second-oldest trainer to win a Triple Crown. Three years later, he followed up that training triumph, with a second Triple Crown winner – Justify.
He won the Kentucky Oaks three times: Silverbulletday (1999), Plum Pretty (2011) and Abel Tasman (2017). In 2014, Baffert won his first Breeders' Cup Classic with Bayern. He has also trained horses that won Breeders' Cup, Dubai World Cup, the inaugural Pegasus World Cup races. His horses have multiple wins in the Santa Anita Derby, the Haskell Invitational Handicap, and the Del Mar Futurity.
Baffert has five children: Taylor, Canyon, Forest, and Savannah. He married his second wife, Jill, a former television reporter, in 2002 and they have a son Bode. Baffert and his family reside in California.