CLASSIC – Post-Race Interview Transcript – Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016

Bob Baffert

Garrett O’Rourke

Dr. John Chandler

Mike Smith

Press Conference

Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic is Arrogate, and we’re thrilled to be joined by the winning connections. From left to right, we’ve got jockey Mike Smith. We’ve got Garrett O’Rourke, the racing manager for Juddmonte Farms. Trainer Bob Baffert; his son, Bode, as well as Dr. John Chandler, President of Juddmonte. Congratulations to you all. Mike, this is your fourth Breeders’ Cup Classic win. Bob’s third in a row. Mike, we want to start with you. You’ve had another amazing weekend at the Breeders’ Cup. If you could just take us through this Breeders’ Cup Classic and your trip on Arrogate.

MIKE SMITH: Well, we had a really good trip. He jumped very well today out of the gate, but was a little reluctant the first probably 16th of a mile. I had to give him a little reminder on his shoulder. Once I did that, I seen that California Chrome had a little bit of company up front of him, so I felt secure that at least he was going to go quick enough, and I didn’t have to go after him early and chase him. Then Victor got a comfortable lead down the back side and kind of started staying off the fence a bit. I didn’t want to move too early; that will just make him pack us out more. I winded up cutting the corner going into the far turn, and that really helped a lot. Because once I switched over and dropped into the far turn, he really picked it up at that point, able to get him back outside. Then he was relentless, this horse. He never stops. He’s got some stamina. Bob’s done a great job. The horse has only run five times and he beat California Chrome. That’s incredible.

THE MODERATOR: Bob, as I said, your third Classic win in a row to go with Bayern and American Pharoah. If you could just give us your impressions of this effort today?

BOB BAFFERT: Well, going in, we knew we had a great horse. We thought we could be competitive. But down deep I really wasn’t sure if we could beat California Chrome because I still have total respect for the horse. He’s a great horse. Down the backside it looked like California Chrome was getting everything going. I thought, well, you know, maybe he’s not running. Maybe he’s just not into it. But I hope Mike Smith knows what he’s doing. And all of a sudden, turning for home it looked like, well — I thought, well, I’m going to run second, but there is nothing wrong with that, because Chrome is a really good horse, and running second to him is no bad thing.

But the 8th pole, all of a sudden, he started getting into that gear, and he’s coming, and he’s inching away at him. And that last 50 yards, I could not believe. Of all the horses I’ve trained — I never thought after losing Pharoah that I thought how are you going to beat something like that with everything we went through. And then to be so lucky and blessed that to have a horse like that. Then to run down a great horse like California Chrome was just like — that’s what the Breeders’ Cup is all about. Watching races like that. They’re just the best. The cream just rises to the top.

I can’t say more for Mike Smith, “Big Money” Mike. I mean, he won that today, and I was like it was a “wow” opportunity. I could not believe — what we just accomplished, we’re very lucky to win these races, but today, watching that horse do what he did and come back, he wasn’t even tired. That horse is just a big kid that’s learning how to run, and in the wind, under the Juddmonte Flag is incredible for me. Prince Khalid wanting to get me on their team, and Juddmonte is like the biggest franchise in racing. So to be part of that and for Garrett O’Rourke, working with him. What makes it so — they just let you train the horse. You tell them when they’re getting ready and let them know what’s going on.

But it’s been a great experience training for Juddmonte. But I have a great horse, but I have a great jockey. What he did today was incredible. It’s hat’s off to California Chrome. He tried so hard. I mean, he’s a great horse. I’ve been chasing that horse for two years. So it was nice to — I still can’t believe that we caught him.

THE MODERATOR: Dr. Chandler, Juddmonte’s had incredible success both here and abroad. But this is your first Breeders’ Cup Classic victory. Can we get your impressions of today?

DR. JOHN CHANDLER: Well, before the race, Teddy, we were talking about which would possibly be the most exciting race we’ve ever won, and Teddy said, well, let’s wait a minute, and we waited a minute, and undoubtedly this is one of the most exciting races we’ve won. We’ve won excellent — we’ve won great races, The Arc de Triomphe and the English Derby and the Belmont, and we’ve won races everywhere. And we had Frankel, of course, who won everything in sight. But this has got to be one of the greatest things we’ve done.

It’s all due to Garrett and Bob, and Bob found — it’s a story that’s been published many times. But Garrett has really done most of the work on the farm side of this, and has taught Bob how to train horses and he’s done a good job of that (laughing). And we’re very grateful to Garrett and to Bob and to do this for us. Now Bob appears to own the Classic. We’ll have to call it the Baffert Benefit after this, I think.

THE MODERATOR: Very good. One question for Garrett before we open it up to the media. Garrett, talk about the campaign overall this year, especially the decision to train up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic?

GARRETT O’ROURKE: Well, when I made that decision, I think it’s a tribute for all of this, obviously goes back to Prince Khalid, and if it’s something on the farm, yeah, we’re responsible for it. If it’s when we go to the sales, Bob and Donato help us, and we get the right horses and we hand them over to people like that. But Prince Khalid has always been a firm believer in hiring the very, very best and allowing them to do their jobs. He doesn’t tell them what to do or how to do it. It’s something that I’ve learned from him as well. So don’t believe what Doc says in me telling Bob Baffert. I don’t have to tell Bob Baffert how to do anything. I don’t have to tell Mike Smith how to do anything. They’re the very best at their profession, and they proved it today. I thank them for it. I want to thank everyone back on the farm, especially because there’s an awful lot of people back on the farm. There’s a lot of horses that didn’t make it here today, and I know the people back on the farm have to go through the heartbreak of seeing those ones not make it.

So when something big like this happens, it’s a great team effort. It’s the professionals I have sitting beside me here, and I think it’s all obviously funded, number one, and motivated, more importantly, by Prince Khalid.

Q. I wonder if you could give us an idea of when you had the inkling, I know five races back the horse was third and then it’s moving in the right direction to find it today, but when you first started with the horse, when did you get the feeling that you had what you have?
BOB BAFFERT: I remember calling Garrett around October. I said, Garrett, I think I’ve found one that’s going to pay for all of them. I said, I think we’ve stumbled onto a really good horse. And he showed run as a 2-year-old, and he had some shin problems. He was a big, tall horse, so Garrett says, you know what, just give him the time. Don’t worry about it. And they freshened him up. It’s one of those things that the really good ones, once we got them going, and he was developing and baby steps, and Rafael Bejarano did a great job helping me develop this horse. Unfortunately, Mike ended up on him because of other circumstances. But it just happens that way.

But it’s one of those things where he always showed run, but we never let him go in the mornings. We never let him run. He’s a big horse. He came around on his own, and I was almost going to run him against Chrome in San Diego at Del Mar, but he got a little bit — I called Garrett and said, I might get a little crazy. I’ve got a crazy plan. Okay. Then he called me a week before, Are you still going to do that crazy thing? I said, No. He had a little bit of a temperature when I got down to Del Mar, so I missed a few days, and I’m glad. That’s when we decided to point for the Travers, because Bejarano always said this horse wants to go a mile-and-a-quarter. I mean, he can go and go and go. And so in the Travers, when Mike rode him, we had to let him run away from the one-hole, and he got him out there. I thought he could win, but I didn’t know he was going to do that. I mean, that was just incredible. I was in awe of him.

So then to come back and sit on him for two months, it was something that I used to do in the quarter horse bin, and I wasn’t worried about it. And we got away with it with Pharoah, and you can do that when you have a great horse. I just didn’t want to run him against California Chrome and Awesome Again. Maybe if it he had been there I might have run him in there. I just felt with my team, Jimmy Barnes, everybody that gets on him, Dana Barnes gets on him. I knew we could do it. We’re equipped to deal with these situations. It’s a lot of fun, especially, so we show up for the big days, we lead them up there, and you just pray and hope that they show up.

I told Mike, if he runs this race, you can win it. If he doesn’t, there’s nothing you can do. And I told him, Mike, you have the reins. Whatever you do, I’m good with. If he gets beat, don’t worry about it. But if you can get me second, that would sure be nice.

So turning for home, I’m still — I’m going to be watching that replay a lot tonight when I get home. That was an incredible race by two incredible horses.

Q. Mike, does this victory here take a little bit of the sting out of yesterday with the Songbird-Beholder match-up?
MIKE SMITH: Well, that still hurts, it’s always going to hurt. You hate to get beat, especially the matter of maybe an inch. This was incredible today. This horse ran a race today that you just don’t see things like this from a young 3-year-old that’s only run five times. He literally was prancing after the race was over. Which most horses hang their head and have to take a breath or two before they can even turn around and come back after going a mile-and-a-quarter. He hasn’t run in two months and he was literally dancing. The outrider couldn’t believe it. He goes, Are you kidding me? This horse is dancing like this? And I said, He’s just got air forever.

Q. What are the plans for the next year?
BOB BAFFERT: Well, that’s up to Garrett. Garrett still runs the show, so I guess he’ll get back and discuss that with Prince Khalid. You want to answer that?

GARRETT O’ROURKE: Obviously, we will have to go back and run it by Prince Khalid, but I think the pointers are that he will definitely race next year.

BOB BAFFERT: Yes.

MIKE SMITH: Double yes.

GARRETT O’ROURKE: That’s the good news. The bad news is we’re going to bring him to England.

MIKE SMITH: I’ll go to England (laughing). Call me English Mike.

Q. I want to congratulate all of you. It’s obviously a major accomplishment. Bob, I know you’re a huge fan of the history of the game and great training jobs. You’ve done plenty of them. This training job is sort of unprecedented. This horse’s foundation, what he’s done in these starts, I want to know what, for you, this means. Because it’s certainly a huge, unprecedented achievement you’ve done here today.
BOB BAFFERT: Every year I’ve been so lucky. I always say: How am I going to top this year? And it’s been going on for all my life. Even when I was training quarter horses. This is what keeps me, keeps my juices flowing. I’m telling you, after American Pharoah retired last year, I was in a really — I wouldn’t say — it was just like a lull. You know, I really missed that horse so much. I still miss him. He’s actually — two of the best horses I’ve ever trained have been in Stall 33 at Santa Anita. He’s in the same stall that Pharoah was with his camera. It’s incredible that I’ve been so lucky.

Somebody up there is really looking down on me. So it’s one of these things that when you’re — when you’re used to doing something, we know what we have to do. We get a horse that’s a good horse. We’re going to do this, and I stick to the plan. It’s all gut feeling, instinct. Sometimes it works. Sometimes we’ll make mistakes. But it’s all trial and error, mostly error. So it’s one of those things that when it comes, I know what I’m dealing with. So I don’t get caught up. They’re still horses, they have to train. You can’t baby them. You’ve got to train them because they’re going to lay it out there for you.

Today I was just hoping to have that horse tight enough for Mike. When he asks him to run, I hope when he pushes the button, I hope it doesn’t get stuck. Because it gets stuck a lot. But it’s one of those things where my good friend Jerry Hollendorfer. I have a lot of respect for him. I felt so bad for him. He always tells me you always seem to pull a rabbit out of your hat on these big days.

MIKE SMITH: He used another word instead of hat, though (laughing).

BOB BAFFERT: But it’s one of those things where I’ve been lucky. Lucky enough I’ve got a beautiful family, beautiful wife, beautiful kids, and I couldn’t ask for more.

Yesterday, things weren’t looking very good. Like I said, this business can get you down, but, boy, there’s nothing like a great horse to pick you right up off the ground. I can’t be happier for my team, everybody that works for me, everybody that works the horses. Even Martin Garcia came in here, helped me get him ready here at the end. It’s a team effort, and I couldn’t do it without everybody.

Still today, and Donato Lanni, who is right there, best Bloodstock agent. Short listed him. He does all the dirty work. I get up there, and we can just walk around and say, nah, okay. But you couldn’t do it without these owners. That’s one thing about Prince Khalid, our owners, they have so much passion for the game. They want to live this assignment. I wish I could have been sitting and watching the race with them on television, the excitement, because you can’t put a price on it. That’s the beauty of horseracing. You cannot put a price on it.

Q. Mike, this Travers victory from last — when you rode this horse, it was phenomenal. We don’t know if Secretariat could have beaten the horse that day, the time was so outlandish. Now he comes back here today and does something also incredible, runs down an older horse with a foundation. Can you talk about the difference in feeling between those two days on this horse? Was there any? Was it better, anything you could say about that?
MIKE SMITH: They were both incredible performances. The only difference was being down in the 1-hole was a whole lot more aggressive that afternoon than I had to be today. Though I did ride him out of there a little bit. He was kind of looking around. The crowd was pretty loud. I just had to get his attention a couple of times, but my hand wasn’t forced, so I didn’t have to push him. But it goes to show you he’s so versatile. He doesn’t have to be in front. I actually even dropped down and took some dirt. The dirt made him run even faster. As soon as it hit him, he kind of got mad and pulled me into him, which is a good sign. He’s not a horse that needs the lead, which is a good thing.

THE MODERATOR: Mike Smith is the winner of the Bill Shoemaker Award as the winningest jockey across the 13 races of the Breeders’ Cup.

MIKE SMITH: Thank you.

Q. What about the last 20 yards of that race, and what that says about maybe the freak that this horse is?
MIKE SMITH: I became a fan the last 20 yards. I was just cheering with everybody else at that point, because I felt that I had the race in hand at that point. So I was just in awe of what he did and the horse that he beat.

Q. Art Sherman would like to have a rematch in the Pegasus Cup. What is the chance that you’re going to go there?
BOB BAFFERT: All I can say is Art Sherman, they’ve done an incredible job with California Chrome. I mean, that’s why this place was packed today. Racing, they’ve done a great job with that horse. I even became a fan of that horse. Anytime you see two horses like we saw yesterday with Beholder and Songbird, it was like you sit there and you really don’t want to see a loser.

Even today in the stretch, you really don’t. If they could have come up dead heated, but I could hear the whole grandstand was just screaming and yelling. And I know most of them were screaming and yelling for Chrome, and I can’t blame them, because he’s done a lot for racing.

THE MODERATOR: On the Pegasus, that’s a?

BOB BAFFERT: We don’t have a berth.

THE MODERATOR: You can buy one from someone else. We’ll leave everybody in suspense on that. Wherever he shows up, we’ll be thrilled to see him. Congratulations once again to the connections of the Breeders’ Cup Classic breeder, Arrogate.

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