Bob Baffert, the only living trainer to win two Triple Crowns, has become an official ambassador for Jockeys And Jeans, which in four years has raised over $1 million for Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. A Jockeys And Jeans ambassador helps with negotiations with track management, fundraising, and personally advocates for jockeys as they rebuild their lives following catastrophic, career-ending injuries.
He joins Hall of Fame ambassadors Ron Turcotte, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Chris McCarron, Jorge Velasquez and active riders, Edgar Prado, Javier Castellano and Mike Smith.
“I met Bob in his office at his barn at Santa Anita and discussed the role of a Jockeys and Jeans Ambassador,” said the group's President, Barry Pearl “Without hesitation, Bob turned and looked at me and said, ‘I would be proud to accept such an honor.'”
Baffert donated $50,000 to PDJF and three other racing related charities after he agreed to accept a reported $200,000 to allow the Burger-King to be filmed behind him before American Pharaoh won the 2015 Belmont Stake and completed his Triple Crown sweep. He has quietly donated since and on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at the second annual Equestricon in Louisville, KY, Baffert, along with other connections of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify—jockey Mike Smith, WinStar Farm President, Elliott Walden, and part owner Jack Wolf—spent over two hours signing autographs to benefit the PDJF.
“I was once a jockey so I know how important it is to support fallen riders,” Baffert said after the marathon signing. “I've hit the ground a few times myself.”
Baffert, who grew up in Nogales, Ariz., started riding match races near his home as an early teen, earning as much as $100 a day, and in 1970 won his first sanctioned race as a Quarter Horse jockey at a Flagstaff, Ariz. track. Though he soon outgrew the saddle, he started his training career with Quarter Horses, racing at Los Alamitos Racetrack in Southern, CA. He dedicated his 2015 Triple Crown victory to his 1980's go-to rider there, Bobby Adair, who died in May of the same year at 71.
Baffert and the late “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons are the only trainers to win two Triple Crowns and Baffert has won a record 15 Triple Crown races. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009, he has won four Eclipse Awards as top trainer, 15 Breeders' Cup races and its Classic a record three times.
“I truly stand amazed that so many of racing's stars have made a decision to stand with us and add to our efforts to help those who are no longer riding racehorses, but wheelchairs,” said Pearl. “It shows that racing is not just a business but a community and a truly caring family.”
Jockeys and Jeans, formed in 2014, is an all volunteer group which raises funds through a yearly event and stallion season sale. All funds raised go directly to the PDJF, which makes monthly payments of $1,000 to some 60 permanently disabled former jockeys, including some 40 who are quadriplegics or paraplegics.
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