Nogales native and Hall of Fame horse trainer Bob Baffert earned his record-tying sixth win at the Kentucky Derby last weekend, when Authentic won the 46th running of the race by 1-1/4 lengths over favorite Tiz the Law.
The Baffert-trained bay colt, ridden by jockey John Velazquez, finished the race with a time of 2:00.61, tying Baffert with Ben Jones for the most Derby wins by a trainer.
Baffert’s other victories at Churchill Downs came in 1997, 1998, 2002, 2015 and 2018.
“It’s one of those things where, you know, it never gets old. We’re just very fortunate and blessed to be in this position,” he said during the post-race news conference.
Baffert, now 67, is also the second trainer ever to win two Triple Crowns. He was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
Baffert grew up in and around Nogales, and graduated from Nogales High School in 1971. He starting his racing career as a jockey at a dirt airstrip on a ranch on Mariposa Road, where the ranch manager put on match races. He was also a familiar figure at the racetrack in Sonoita.
“Sometimes I can’t believe it all started in little Patagonia, Ariz. – Sonoita,” Baffert told the NI in an interview in 2015.
In 2018, the Nogales mayor and council proclaimed Jan. 13 – Baffert’s birthday – as Bob Baffert Day in Nogales.
His win at the Derby last Saturday was part of an eventful day that began when another Baffert-trained horse, Thousand Words, was disqualified prior to the race after rearing up and falling in the paddock, fracturing the wrist of assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes in the process. Then, following the race, Authentic knocked down Baffert and several others in the winner’s circle.
It was part of what’s been an up-and-down year for Baffert, who was suspended for 15 days in July after two of his horses tested positive for a banned substance after winning races in Arkansas. He has appealed the suspension.
“It’s been a roller-coaster year, but thankfully it’s the love of the horses that keeps me going,” he said on Saturday, the Associated Press reported. “They’re the best therapy a human can have. I love being around them.”