In His Own Way, Baffert Keeping Up With the Joneses - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

In His Own Way, Baffert Keeping Up With the Joneses

Father-son duo of Ben (left) and Jimmy Jones, shown with 1957 winner Iron Liege, combined to win eight Kentucky Derbies

It doesn't happen often and it may be a bit of a stretch, but a pair of Thoroughbreds trained by the same connections, who appear to be a near lock in this year's Kentucky Derby, bring back memories of 1948 when Citation beat Calumet stablemate Coaltown on his way to a signature Triple Crown. Coaltown was no slouch.  He won Horse of the Year honors from Turf & Sport Digest in 1949.

History tells us that this year's story is not yet as interesting, unless, of course, American Pharoah or Dortmund win the elusive Triple Crown for trainer Bob Baffert, breaking a 37-year drought that goes back to Affirmed in 1978 when Triple Crowns appeared to be a dime a dozen.

Baffert has come as close as any trainer, finishing second with Silver Charm in New York in 1997, then losing the Belmont by a nose the following year with Real Quiet. He won the first two legs of the Triple Crown again in 2002 with War Emblem.

But in 1948, trainers Ben Jones and his son Jimmy Jones were having a not so “real quiet” battle of their own.  They both eventually made the Hall of Fame, but back then Ben was trying to become the second trainer to win four Derbies and Calumet was odds-on to win it either with Coaltown or Citation.

Jimmy had been campaigning Citation anywhere he could find a race for him and was listed as the “trainer.”  But when it came time for the Derby, Jimmy's name came down and up went ole Ben's, though Jimmy did get to saddle the winner.

“Sonofagun,” said Jimmy to Heywood Hale Broun when they were both still hale and hearty, “he just stole him from me.”  I was standing next to the cameraman as the CBS News producer of their interview and Jimmy appeared to be getting hot under the collar over something that had happened 50 years before.  It was almost as if he was letting out the hurt he had felt for all those years.  Citation had 45 career starts, finishing out of the money only once, and Jimmy was there for every one of them.  He really loved Citation like no other campaigner he had ever trained and he kept trumpeting that brilliance until the day he died.

According to an obituary in the Los Angeles Times when Jimmy Jones died in 2001, this conversation took place in the saddling area of Churchill Downs just before the 1948 Derby.  “Are you sure I'm on the right horse,” jockey Eddie Arcaro asked Jones.  Arcaro apparently wasn't sure if Coaltown didn't stand a better chance of taking the roses.  “Just don't get in a speed duel with my other horse,” Jones replied.  Coaltown was in front by six lengths after a half mile. Citation won by 3 1/2.

It's usually not a ticklish situation when a trainer has more than one Derby entry, but in the case of near co-favorites it has to make it a little bit dicey.  Bob Baffert is a wonderfully entertaining guy, and I'd like to be a fly on his shoulder when he gives his jockeys their final instructions on the first Saturday in May.

Racing certainly has more intrigue and, imagined or not, Machiavellian plots than those other sports soap operas that go on endlessly about deflatable balls or juiced-up players who can't wait for the next hit.  Racing has its own juice problems, but it also allows us to dream.

Heywood Hale Broun once wrote, “unfinished dreams are the best kind and the moving ceremony in my fantasy in which I accept the elaborate cup is more wonderful than the more likely reality; someday a silver mug for winning the secondary feature at Oaklawn Park. But looking back, would I change it?  I don't think so.  I would miss out on so much mirth, peace and amity.”

E. S. (Bud) Lamoreaux III is the former Executive Producer of CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt who won four Eclipse Awards for his backstretch profiles.

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