“On the Fringes” is a column that highlights sports that often do not receive as much coverage as the major sports. In these sports there are amazing moments and incredible sportspeople that this column looks to recognize.
Bob Baffert might be the greatest sportsman that you have never heard of.
Baffert is an American racehorse trainer. It’s understandable how few would know about his career — horse racing is just the 13th most popular sport in the United States. While it may be easy to ignore Baffert because of the limited attention he gets outside of the horse racing world, it should not diminish his greatness. He is one of the best sportsmen in history.
Baffert’s greatest achievement in horse racing came in 2015 when he trained American Pharoah, who ended the 37-year Triple Crown drought by winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes. Baffert became just the 11th trainer to win the Triple Crown.
Yet Baffert’s career began long before his best moment. In 1988 Baffert moved from training quarter horses to thoroughbred horses which are the horses that run in the Triple Crown races.
Baffert made it on the grand stage in 1997 when he trained Cavonnier, who came in second at the Kentucky Derby, the most important horse race every year. A year later he trained Silver Charm who won the Kentucky Derby and also placed first at the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the three races that form the Triple Crown.
For Baffert, that was just the beginning of an incredible training career. In 1998 he trained Real Quiet who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, and has since trained four horses that ran victorious at the Kentucky Derby and five more horses that won at the Preakness Stakes. Baffert has also trained three American Horse of the Year winners and won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer four times.
After his 2015 Triple Crown Baffert followed it up with a second in 2018 when he trained Justify. This put Baffert in exclusive company as only the second trainer to win two Triple Crowns.
Baffert won his sixth Kentucky Derby this year, tying the record for Kentucky Derby victories. He has now won the race in four different decades.
Baffert has either tied or broken almost every major record in American horse racing, and there is no indication he’ll step away from training horses anytime soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if Baffert breaks many more records before he retires.
When Baffert finally does retire, he will go down as the greatest trainer to ever do it. His pure domination of the sport over four decades also makes him one of the greatest sportsmen in history.
“On the Fringes” runs every other Thursday.