You’re Bob Baffert. You’re the world’s hottest trainer. In the last two years, two of your 3-year-olds, Silver Charm and Real Quiet, have come within a length of winning the Triple Crown. Your best 2-year-old so far this year, Worldly Manner, looks like another champion after becoming your third consecutive Del Mar Futurity winner.
But before you can say Secretariat, Worldly Manner has been sold by his owners and ticketed for shipment to Kentucky, presumably to wage his run for the roses with another trainer.
“Can you believe that?” Baffert said Tuesday, tongue in cheek. “They bought a great horse and didn’t leave him with Bob Baffert.”
I, however, ask the question in all sincerity.
Why would the new owners take the horse out of Baffert’s barn at Santa Anita?
For the answer, you’d have to ask them. But Baffert doesn’t know who they are. Neither do the previous owners, John and Betty Mabee of Golden Eagle Farm, who sold Worldly Manner through an agent for an undisclosed price and probably won’t learn the identity of the new owners until today, when the final payment is due.
“I’m disappointed, but it’s not like they took my first-born child,” Baffert said. “That’s just racing, something that happens in this business.”
He’s right. No one should feel sorry for him, considering he still has nine 2-year-olds he believes have potential to run at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
“Worldly Manner’s shoes can be filled,” Baffert said. “They just can’t be filled immediately.”
Immediately would have been preferred, however, because Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meeting opens today.
This is one of the meetings around the country in which 2-year-olds traditionally begin sorting themselves out. Kentucky Derby winners who used Oak Tree as a proving ground include Ferdinand, Alysheba, Sunday Silence and Real Quiet.
But who knows whether Worldly Manner would have followed in their path?
Predicting which 2-year-olds will emerge as Triple Crown horses is like predicting which eighth-grade basketball players will someday start for UCLA.
For example, the favorite in the third race for non-winners on Oct. 18 last year in the Oak Tree meeting was Disruptive. Santa Anita officials aren’t sure where he is today, but, as of the spring, he was still running in races for non-winners.
The winner of that race last October was the bettors’ second choice, Real Quiet.
Felipe Alou says he’s not looking to leave the Montreal Expos but will if they give him permission to talk to another team because that’s proof they no longer want him. . . .
The Expos say they don’t want to lose Alou but will grant him permission to talk to another team if he wants to leave. . . .
Maybe they should consider seeing a marriage counselor. . . .
The NBA lockout doesn’t only affect players and owners. . . .
Mark Meyers, on retainer as a publicist for the L.A. Sports Council, counts on income each year from preparing a newsletter that is circulated at the annual luncheons for the Lakers, Clippers and Kings. . . .
The Kings’ luncheon is scheduled for next Tuesday at the Hotel Intercontinental in downtown Los Angeles, but the functions for the Lakers and Clippers are on hold. . . .
As a result, so is the newsletter. . . .
And so is Meyers’ engagement to Stephani Smith. . . .
“I can’t buy her an engagement ring until the lockout ends,” Meyers complains. . . .
With an excuse like that, the next one locked out should be Meyers. . . .
Baffert said he’s leaning toward racing Silver Charm in the Oct. 17 Goodwood Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita instead of the night before at the Meadowlands. But don’t hold him to it. . . .
“Like the weather in Kentucky, I change every six hours,” he said. . . .
Baffert’s Cavonnier, the 1996 Kentucky Derby runner-up who hasn’t raced since the Belmont that year because of a damaged tendon, makes his comeback on the grass Friday at Santa Anita. . . .
I don’t know anything about Michael Ovitz’s football credentials except that he’s a fan. But with Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal, he’s putting together one heck of a basketball team. . . .
All he needs now are a couple of forwards.
While wondering if a playoff appearance by the Cubs and a win for Prairie View means good things are in store for the Clippers, I was thinking: The only college running back I’d rather have than Ricky Williams is Ricky Williams, I’m thankful Deion Sanders isn’t successful at everything he tries, Mark McGwire needs only four more 70-home run seasons to almost catch Henry Aaron.