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Baffert snaps 5-year Breeders' Cup drought with pair of victories
By Beth Harris | Associated Press
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Published: 10/27/200 11:24 PM

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OCEANPORT, N.J. -- Bob Baffert was quick to correct someone who called his pair of victories in the Breeders' Cup a comeback.

"I've always been here," the silver-haired trainer said of his five-year drought in racing's showcase event. "I've just been a little quiet."

He created quite a ruckus Saturday, winning a pair of $2 million races, the Juvenile Fillies with Indian Blessing and the Sprint with Midnight Lute. They were his with his first Breeders' Cup victories since Vindication took the 2002 Juvenile.

Baffert has had a low profile in recent years after dominating the sport in the late 1990s, when he racked up 3 Kentucky Derby victories and led the nation's trainers in earnings for four consecutive years.

Part of his slide was due to the deaths of prominent owners Bob Lewis, John Mabee and Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Salman. Their deep pockets and flow of good horses kept Baffert in hay, while his successes made him the envy of the racing world.

Still, a couple of longtime clients got him back in the winner's circle Saturday, where he held up his young son Bode.

Indian Blessing is owned by Patti and Hal Earnhardt.

"I'm the longest client that Bobby has," Hal Earnhardt said. "We started together, never had another trainer, it's only been him and all our successes."

Midnight Lute is co-owned by Mike Pegram and two other men.

"It's just great to win it with my old pal Mike. We're back in the saddle with a great horse," Baffert said after the Sprint. "I had them upside down for about six, seven years and they stuck with me. Now they know the feeling of winning."

Pegram and Baffert teamed to win the 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Real Quiet, who was denied the Triple Crown sweep when he lost the Belmont by a nose.

"The one thing that's great about racing is when you can enjoy it with your friends," Pegram said.

The Sprint victory was consolation for Baffert, who had to scratch his other entry Cry and Catch Me earlier in the week because of a fever.

"I've learned you can never look back and just go forward," he said. "Thank God she didn't get very sick and we got it under control in time so she'll be back to race again."

Baffert's other Breeders' Cup entry, Tough Tiz's Sis, finished seventh in the Distaff.

Indian Blessing led all the way in the Juvenile Fillies and won by 3½ lengths. Midnight Lute worried Baffert a bit more. He was eighth after the opening quarter mile and was seventh at the half-mile pole.

"I told my wife, who was next to me, 'Oh, we didn't break and he was way back there,' " the trainer said. "We would have been really disappointed if he didn't win. I loved Indian Blessing, but I knew this was my best shot, and when he didn't break, I thought, 'What a shame, he's not going to get to show his best stuff.' "

Then, Midnight Lute kicked in at the three-eighths pole and made a big move, swinging wide at the quarter pole to get around traffic.

"He was just pouring it on at the end," Baffert said. "I was so excited to watch him do that, knowing that he gets to go back to my barn, that I have a horse like that."

Baffert will likely be back at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby weekend with Indian Blessing. But the filly would probably end up in the Kentucky Oaks for females, run on Derby eve.

"She's just a really good filly," Baffert said. "When they're that talented, they just get it done."

When you've won as much as Baffert has, you find a way to do it again on the biggest days.