LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Bob Baffert and his iconic white hair are synonymous with the Kentucky Derby. He has dominated the greatest two minutes in sports in the last 25 years, winning the roses five times.
The 67-year-old says moving the race from May to September is not his main concern.
“I’m just trying to digest it as we go right now, but what I’m more worried about is what’s going in the world right now, it’s scary,” Baffert said from his California home. “At the end of the day our health comes first and so it’s really, you have to deal with it, at least they didn’t cancel it. They could have canceled it, that would have been tough to take.”
Churchill Downs announced on Tuesday that the race will move from May 2 to September 5. If it is run on that date, or any time after that this year, it will be just the third time that the Derby has been run outside of the month of May. That was also the case in 1901 and 1945. It was run in April of 1901 and June of 1945.
The sport is the only one still competing. A few tracks are racing without fans.
“Horse racing is the only game in town right now and hopefully we stay open, you know, New York is staying open, Santa Anita, hopefully, I know everybody is fighting to stay open,” Baffert said. “So I’m just, there’s a lot of jobs at stake, a lot of people that depend on racing and I worry about them, but right now the Kentucky Derby is like, you know, just a horse race, another horse race, I know it’s an important one, but right now I think our industry and what’s going on in America, you know, you don’t want to see that. I hope they just get a grip on this problem, this coronavirus, it’s just freaking everybody out and I’m like everybody else.”
The extra four months figure to make for a new list of contenders. The extra maturity should benefit some of those currently on the Triple Crown trail.
Baffert’s stable is loaded. He has Nadal, the winner of last weekends Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Authentic won the San Felipe on March 7, and is unbeaten in three starts. Thousand Words won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes before a fourth place finish in the San Felipe. Then there’s Charlatan. He won by 10 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita Park last Saturday.
The son of Speightstown is unbeaten in two lifetime starts, but has not accumulated any Kentucky Derby points yet. He could benefit from the added time and the potential addition of points races this summer. Two years ago Baffert had a entered a lightly raced horse in the Santa Anita Derby in search of points to get in the Kentucky Derby field. Justify rolled home that day and went on to win the Triple Crown.
“I mean Charlatan is the only one that doesn’t have any points, it’d probably be more benefit for him to get those points, but there’s not a big rush, there’s not, I don’t really rush them,” Baffert said. “Justify happened because he was a good horse and everything worked out, Charlatan I haven’t really, we weren’t even thinking about the Derby until he ran in his mile the other day and now we can take the next step but it’s all step by step.”
The move gives us hope that come September we can all gather again under the twin spires.