05/18/2009 12:00AM

Trainer profile: Jimmy Baker


In the 1990s, Jimmy Baker's stable was on the rise, like technology stocks, earning more than $800,000 annually in five years of that decade.

Then a loss of successful owners with talented young runners led to a decline. His stable diminished in size and quality, with his worst year coming in 2004, when he won six races and his stable earned $146,187.

Now Baker is back winning regularly again. With owners like Patton's Creek Farm, Marc Keller, Tom Walters, and Courtlandt Farms providing him with some quality horses to train, 2008 was his best year since the 1990s - with his stable winning 17 races and more than $750,000.

He is on pace for another successful year in 2009. Through Sunday, he had 9 winners from 45 starts this year, and was 3 for 10 at Churchill Downs.

Baker's runners haven't just been running. Some have been running wild.

War Eagle Lady dropped into a $30,000 nonwinners-of-two claiming race May 14 and dominated in the slop, rolling to a 14 3/4-length victory under Calvin Borel.

Baker, 52, said he didn't think it was merely the off track that resulted in such an effort. The filly has never been a good shipper, he said, and just being led over from her Churchill Downs stable benefited her. So, too, did a change in tactics.

"If you take a hold of her, she'll take off and get rank," he said. "So I told Calvin in the paddock the other day to just give her her head."

Borel did that, and she gave her all, relaxing on the front end and leading from start to finish.

Other winners for Baker this spring meet at Churchill Downs include Barastraight, who took a $40,000 claiming race on the grass before finishing second Saturday for $50,000, and Cassoulet, who narrowly won a third-level allowance April 26, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 92.

"I'm going to run Cassoulet in the Aristides," a $100,000, Grade 3 race at Churchill Downs on May 30, Baker said.

The Baker-trained Elite Squadron ran third in the Aristides last year after winning the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on Derby Day of 2008. His last start came in last summer's Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park, a race in which he ran a close second. A suspensory injury then forced his retirement. He stood at stud this year at Wintergreen Stallion Station in Midway, Ky. for a fee of $7,500.

Horseplayers will be encouraged by Baker's statistics. He shows favorable returns in many statistic categories, and perhaps most interestingly, a wager on each of his runners in 2008 and 2009 would have yielded a profit.

More wins could be in order in the coming weeks at Churchill. Baker said he hopes to run Pretty Prolific, who ran a troubled third in the Grade 2 Adirondack last year, in an allowance at Churchill sometime in June.

A 3-year-old daughter of Lion Heart, Pretty Prolific has breezed swiftly at Churchill Downs leading up to her seasonal debut. She worked a half-mile in 46.40 seconds May 10 and five furlongs in 59.60 on Monday.

"She's training like a house on fire," he said.