Mostly, though, Baffert’s new mantra is not to worry about things he can’t control, not an easy task for a perfectionist.
“I used to get upset over little things that I shouldn’t have even worried about,” he said. “This sport can really get you down. I’m actually enjoying my sport a little bit better.”
Bodemeister turned in the most dominating performance of any Derby prospect with a 9 1/2-length victory in the Arkansas Derby. He’s never been worse than second in his four career starts, all this year. He didn’t race as a 2-year-old and no colt since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby without running at 2.
“When I told him Bodemeister was going to the Kentucky Derby, his first question was, `Well, what if he loses?”’ Baffert said. “I said, `Well, we can’t worry about that.’ It’s a little extra pressure for me to make sure that he runs well.”
Matz, meantime, has been quietly going about his business since hitting the big-time with Barbaro. While his champion, undefeated colt was trying to battle back, Matz won the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic that fall, making for a bittersweet year.
Union Rags, with four wins in five career races, is residing in the same barn that housed Barbaro at Churchill Downs; same exercise rider, too.
“We have some very nice memories from here,” said Peter Brette, who also works as Matz’s assistant trainer. “It’s really nice to be back with a horse that’s got a really good chance.”
Barbaro ran three times before the Derby, while Union Rags has had an even lighter schedule — just two starts, including a win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes after a strong 2-year-old campaign.
“I hope I learned something in six years,” said Matz, a former Olympic equestrian. “It’s just like anything else, probably the same thing you learned riding - experience.”