Baffert Fuels Deal for Senor Swinger

Times Staff Writer

A year ago, Thoroughbred Corp. and trainer Bob Baffert bought War Emblem only a few weeks before they won the Kentucky Derby with the colt. Baffert, who has won the Derby three times in the last six years, reached out again Monday, this time for owners Bob and Beverly Lewis, when he orchestrated the sale of Senor Swinger, the fifth-place finisher in the Florida Derby.

The price for Senor Swinger was not disclosed, but Mickey Goldfine, who trained the horse, said that before the Florida Derby, the colt’s owners, Bob Ackerman and Barry Golden, had turned down a $2-million offer from a client represented by trainer Nick Zito. Last April, Thoroughbred Corp. bought 90% of War Emblem for $900,000.

The Lewises, who live in Newport Beach, won the Derby in 1997 with the Baffert-trained Silver Charm and repeated at Churchill Downs in 1999 with Charismatic, trained by Wayne Lukas. The Lewises’ Composure, a filly who had an outside chance to run in the Derby, was retired last week after cracking a sesamoid in her right foreleg. Composure, who will be bred to A.P. Indy next week, was trained by Baffert, as is Vindication, who was knocked off the Derby trail in February because of a leg injury.

Baffert’s other Derby hopefuls, Kafwain and Domestic Dispute, have been beaten in their last starts.


The deal for Senor Swinger was put together quickly.

Baffert mentioned to Bob Lewis last Wednesday that the horse might be for sale. Ackerman said he didn’t get involved until Saturday. On Sunday, Baffert flew from California to Chicago, where he watched the gray colt gallop at Hawthorne on Monday morning. The sale was announced shortly after a veterinarian inspected the horse.

“My owners did quite well financially, and Bob [Baffert] will do great with him,” said Goldfine, who was disappointed with Edgar Prado’s ride in the Florida Derby and was considering a jockey change had he kept Senor Swinger.

Senor Swinger would hardly have threatened the race’s winner, Empire Maker, under any circumstances. He was beaten by more than 20 lengths.

According to Ackerman and Goldfine, their veterinarian said that the colt flipped his palate, which causes a breathing problem, during the race.

The third choice at 6-1 in the Florida Derby, Senor Swinger had run only twice before. Goldfine started him at 1 1/16 miles as he broke his maiden at Hawthorne in December, and in another two-turn effort he finished in a dead heat for the win against Ten Cents A Shine at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 31. His second start had been delayed two weeks because of a respiratory infection.

Bred by Ackerman, Senor Swinger is a son of El Prado and Smooth Swinger, a Kris S. mare. El Prado also sired Medaglia d’Oro, winner of last year’s Travers, second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and winner of this year’s Strub Stakes.