You can forgive trainer Bob Baffert for being disgusted and frustrated for another gut wrenching loss in the Triple Crown.
The Belmont Stakes, which Baffert has won once but has claimed victim to him on multiple occasions including three missed Triple Crown opportunities, is always one of the toughest races to win in the world. And before the Belmont, he thought he had a great chance with his entrant.
Paynter, a newcomer to the 3-year-old elite ranks, was a horse that Baffert thought very highly of but didn't think was ready to take on the best. But after an impressive win at Pimlico on Preakness Day, the trainer decided Paynter was his Belmont horse.
Not long after Paynter won on Preakness Day, Bodemeister suffered his second straight nail biting defeat to I'll Have Another. The Preakness looked to be a perfect place for Bodemeister to turn the tables on the Derby winner as he was the lone speed but I'll Have Another proved to be too good.
The same scenario developed in the Belmont as jockey Mike Smith, who was also aboard Bodemeister in the Derby and Preakness, sent Paynter right to the lead and tried to slow down the pace as much as he could. It looked to be working as he looked comfortably in front for three quarters of the race. But, Union Rags, much like I'll Have Another did in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, wore down the Baffert trainee in the final strides.
“Is there a Triple Crown for seconds? I need a Triple Crown for second," Baffert said. "I really thought he was going to win today. He was doing so well. I just feel bad for [owner] Mr. [Ahmed] Zayat. The poor guy, he’s been tortured on this Triple Crown. Turning for home, I knew we had the horse to do it and that horse snuck up on him there. He’s still a young horse, still learning how to run. It’s over. When you get beat, you get beat.”
Upon reflection Baffert should smile widely about his Triple Crown performance. Any trainer in the world would be thrilled to have a chance to win any Triple Crown down the home stretch. It is very easy for a highly successful trainer to take that for granted but despite those tough defeats, Baffert's place among racing best all-time trainers is secure.
He already has won three Kentucky Derbys and five Preakness Stakes among many other elite races he has captured. And although he may have a restless night sleeping after suffering his third straight gut wrenching Triple Crown loss, he shouldn't want to trade places with anyone. Most trainer would want his "problems."