01/06/2016 11:15AM

2015 Eclipse Awards: Bob Baffert


Bob Baffert wasn’t statistically the top trainer of 2015, but no one could argue that he wasn’t at the summit of his profession historically.

For the first time in 37 years, following Affirmed in 1978, a horse won the Triple Crown – American Pharoah – and it was Baffert who trained him to that elusive trio of victories as well as to a Breeders’ Cup Classic triumph at the end of 2015.

American Pharoah’s Triple Crown success vaulted horse racing into the national limelight, and Baffert and owner Ahmed Zayat graciously accommodated the public with access to the history-making colt. They paraded him and galloped him before fans and regularly allowed supporters to see him up close at the barn.

This access, coupled with the horse’s history-making accomplishments, made him one of the most popular horses in decades.

Although Baffert’s win total of 83 victories in 2015 was his lowest since he won 60 races in 2008, he still won nine Grade 1 races in 2015, and his stable earned more than in any other year.

American Pharoah was responsible for six of those Grade 1 wins, with the Haskell Invitational and Arkansas Derby joining the Triple Crown races and Breeders’ Cup Classic on his résumé. The other Baffert trainees who won Grade 1 races were Callback in the Las Virgenes, Dortmund in the Santa Anita Derby, and Mor Spirit in the Los Alamitos Futurity.

Mor Spirit’s success in the Futurity made him a leading prospect for the 2016 Kentucky Derby, a race Baffert has won four times.

Baffert, who turned 63 on Jan. 13, finished third in stable earnings in 2015 among trainers behind Pletcher and Chad Brown, with his horses earning more than $16.2 million in North America.

A Hall of Famer, Baffert won three consecutive Eclipse Awards as outstanding trainer from 1997-99.