You probably won’t remember the last trainer to win the Preakness Stakes seven times. And for good reason, as it was way back in 1888 when R. Wyndham Walden watched his charge Refund win the then 1 1/2-mile event. 130 years later, Bob Baffert has a wonderful chance to match the feat. On Saturday at Pimlico, the Hall of Fame conditioner will send his unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner Justify to the starting gate a heavy favorite against seven others.
If the 2018 Preakness Stakes does indeed become the next notch on the impressive girth of the son of Scat Daddy, the silver-haired Baffert will join Walden as the only seven-time winner. In the process, he will move one Preakness victory ahead of D.Wayne Lukas, who will also be in search of his seventh win in racing’s Middle Jewel on Saturday. Let’s take a look at Baffert’s previous six victories in the big race at Baltimore …
Silver Charm (1997) – Baffert’s first win in the Preakness was about as difficult as it gets. He came to Baltimore with the popular winner of the Kentucky Derby, but Silver Charm had some serious competition in Free House, Captain Bodgit, and Touch Gold. The latter would end the Triple Crown bid of Silver Charm three weeks later in New York, but on this Baltimore afternoon, Silver Charm displayed true grit in earning victory after an incredible battle with Free House. A winner of half of his 24 lifetime starts, Silver Charm entered the Hall of Fame in 2007.
Real Quiet (1998) – One year later, Baffert brought Real Quiet to Pimlico following a determined win over the Canadian-bred Victory Gallop at Churchill Downs. This time, the victory would come easier for the son of Quiet American. His strong rival would deny him the Triple Crown with a late rush in the Belmont Stakes, but Real Quiet became Baffert’s second consecutive 3yo Champion at the end of the year.
Point Given (2001) – Upset when he faded to fifth in the Kentucky Derby, Baffert gave his big horse another chance in the Preakness, and this time Point Given would not disappoint. The talented son of Thunder Gulch became Baffert’s third horse to win two legs of the Triple Crown with a romping win in the Belmont three weeks later. Nine times a winner in 13 career races, the 2001 Horse of the Year joined Silver Charm in the Hall of Fame in 2010.
War Emblem (2002) – He only came to the Baffert barn a few weeks before the Kentucky Derby, but the speedy winner of the Illinois Derby proved ready to fire at Churchill Downs. Flashing his early prowess right from the gate, the near black colt could not be caught in either the Derby or the Preakness. The Belmont proved to be his undoing, as a poor start and the twelve furlongs in New York were more than he could handle. A win in the Haskell a few months later clinched the honor of 3yo Champion for the son of Our Emblem.
Lookin At Lucky (2010) – Drawing the one-post in the Kentucky Derby was not what his trainer wanted, and sure enough, the Juvenile Champion of 2009 suffered a terrible trip while finishing off the board in Louisville. He would find his redemption in Baltimore, though. It was not easy, but Lookin At Lucky, as he did often in his career, proved best in the final furlong to score at Pimlico. Retired after his second season, the son of Smart Strike became the first horse since Spectacular Bid, 31 years earlier, to be named both 2yo and 3yo champion.
American Pharoah (2015) – Baffert was stung by a heartbreaking defeat of Bodemeister by I’ll Have Another in the Preakness of 2012, but three years later he was back at Pimlico with what would become his most celebrated horse yet. After a loss in his first career race, American Pharoah entered the 2015 Preakness having impressively won five straight graded stakes races, including the Kentucky Derby. On a sloppy track, he absolutely dominated his rivals in the Middle Jewel. Of course, three weeks later he would become America’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, with a big win in the Belmont. Baffert’s only Triple Crown winner to date, American Pharoah also won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and was named Horse of the Year of 2015.
Photo of Justify courtesy of Coady Photography