Trainer Bob Baffert put the finishing touches on West Coast and Abel Tasman early this morning, sending both out for a mile-long gallop. Baffert and Mary and Gary West, owners of West Coast will receive a bonus of $50,000 each for having won the Grade I Travers as part of the Pennsylvania Derby bonus program.
West Coast, off his 3 ¼ length win in the Travers is the 8 to 5 morning line favorite in the Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, and will be in search of his fifth straight victory while Abel Tasman, also the morning line favorite at 8 to 5 in the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion is in search of her fourth straight Grade 1 victory.
“Everything is good,” said Baffert. “The biggest problem I have now is where I'm going to get breakfast in a little while,” he said with a smile.
The 64 year-old Hall of Fame conditioner is enjoying his first time at Parx and has been more hands-on than in recent years due to the absence of his longtime assistant, Jimmy Barnes, who suffered an injury during training last week. It was Barnes who saddled 2014 PA Derby winner Bayern for owner Kaleem Shah.
Barnes, who has been employed by Baffert since November 1998, was riding his pony when his mount stumbled and unseated the 58 year-old, said to be a “freaky thing” by Baffert. He was then transported to the hospital, and diagnosed with a fractured pelvis.
Barnes is Baffert's right hand man when it comes to shipping outside of California for a race. He was alongside American Pharoah when he won the Arkansas Derby, and remained with him through his sweep of the Triple Crown. His wife, Dana works as an exercise rider for the barn, and is the regular rider for Arrogate. Now Baffert, a recent stay at home trainer, is happily back in his old environment but wishes it was under better circumstances.
“Preparation is the most important, once we get them here it's done,” Baffert said. “I have the job of preparing them, and I have the job of saying to Jimmy here they are, they're locked, loaded, okay take them, and we make sure we're ready.”
Set to be released from the hospital sometime Friday afternoon, Barnes will recuperate at home, but already misses his time at the barn with the horses. To aid his down time Baffert installed a video camera which will serve a dual purpose. To keep watch on his Grade 1 winners while he's away from the barn, and also to keep Barnes busy.
“I gave him the website. I told him he could be the night watchman. I was told he was watching them last night. He was sitting there, watching the both of them for about twenty minutes. It's good because he's going to be like that movie with Kathy Bates, what was it called? Misery? He'll be like that, chained to his bed, driving his poor wife Dana crazy.”
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