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Baffert Contemplating a Royal Ascot Invasion

Trainer Bob BaffertHollywood could hit Royal Ascot this summer as Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert intends to have his first runner at Flat racing's most prestigious fixture.

California-based Baffert enjoyed a fantastic 2015 thanks to the exploits of the brilliant American Pharoah, who became the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to land the Triple Crown.

The four-year-old, who also landed North America's richest race when strolling home in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Keeneland in October, was crowned 2015 world champion at a gala event at Claridge's in London recently that whetted the Hall of Fame trainer's appetite to return to Britain for one of Ascot's juvenile races.

'It'd be really cool'

"London was so beautiful," said Baffert, who was paying his first proper visit to England. "Cold, but beautiful. You see pictures of it and on the TV, but up close it's a pretty impressive city, so clean. The only other time I'd been in England was the first time I travelled to Dubai and changed at Heathrow airport, but I never saw anything.

"I'd never given having a runner at Ascot any thought, but after going over and seeing everything I thought, ‘You know what, I might'. It's on my radar.

"Any time anyone said are you going to come to Ascot it was an immediate ‘no way', but now after visiting I think it would be really cool.

"When I passed Buckingham Palace I thought ‘Wow, this is something'. You've got to remember I grew up on a ranch in Arizona, so I'm not used to seeing stuff like that.

"I love watching Ascot and to me the best part of it is when the Queen comes out in the royal procession. I was going to go one year and take my wife as guests of Prince Ahmed, who owned our Derby winner War Emblem, but unfortunately he died that year."

'You need something fast'

Baffert, whose biggest victories outside the States have come in the Dubai World Cup courtesy of Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001), has yet to identify a contender but has taken heart from countryman Wesley Ward's fruitful raids, which have become one of the international success stories of the royal meeting in recent years.

"I'm going to look into it," added Baffert, speaking exclusively to the Racing Post.

"I'd want a two-year-old who looks like it could be competitive. I wouldn't want to go unless I had something I thought could win, so if I find something pretty fast we could come.

"Wesley's gone over with those super-fast two-year-olds and I saw that filly Acapulco he won with last year at the sales. She worked really fast so I know what you need - something precocious. Wesley's doing it the American way and they open up three, four, five lengths, so it's hard to run them down, but you need firm ground.

"I've not spoken to him about it, but I've spoken to people who have gone over and they say you have to do it. Last year we won the Golden Shaheen in Dubai with Secret Circle and I think it's really important to support each other to keep racing popular."

Baffert, who plans to run Hoppertunity in this year's World Cup at Meydan on March 26 but ruled out Dortmund, as short as 10-1 with British bookmakers for the $10 million contest, also has to organise his wardrobe given Ascot's dress code for its premier meeting.

He said: "I have to look into that, but everybody is always telling me they'd love to see me in top hat and tails."

US invasion

Baffert's words were welcomed by Nick Smith, Ascot's director of racing and communications, who revealed the 63-year-old is not the only US trainer to have shown an interest in this summer's extravaganza.

"We'd be extremely pleased to see Bob at Royal Ascot this year," he said. "I spoke to him briefly in the UK this month when he was picking up the Longines Top Racehorse Award. Primarily he has dirt horses, but there's no doubt our two-year-old programme, and increasingly our sprint programme, especially the Commonwealth Cup, is achieving some resonance with US trainers, down to Wesley Ward as much as anything else.

"There have been some positive noises about Chad Brown joining Ken Ramsey's list of trainers at Royal Ascot, and Todd Pletcher has expressed a lot of interest in the Commonwealth Cup, so hopefully we'll see some of these star US names with entries."





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