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THE INSIDE TRACK | NOTES ON A SCORECARD / ALLAN MALAMUD

Baffert and Cavonnier May Be Preakness Power

May 14, 1996|Allan Malamud

Bob Baffert and Cavonnier will see Pimlico for the first time this week. . . .

On Saturday the white-haired trainer will saddle the brown gelding for the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness, and it won't be surprising if they visit the winner's circle during their stay in Baltimore. . . .

Cavonnier and Baffert are two of the most improved performers in the sport. . . .

"He keeps getting better and better," Baffert said about the Cal-bred who came within a nostril of winning the Kentucky Derby. "He's learned how to relax. And he's growing. He's shooting up. He's turned into such a good horse that it's scary." . . .

In the five years since he regularly trained quarter horses, Baffert has established himself as one of the best thoroughbred conditioners in the nation. Last year his horses won more than 20% of their starts and earned $2,389,552. . . .

"I learn something new every day on this job," he said the other day between races at Hollywood Park. . . .

He believes the key to his success is his enthusiasm. . . .

"I can't wait to get to the track every morning," he said. "I chose the right profession. I enjoy horses and people. I'm self-made. I was also a self-made jockey and that's why I was so bad." . . .

Raised on a cattle ranch, Baffert rode some of the quarter horses he trained at Rillito Downs in Tucson after graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in animal science. . . .

"One day, Bobby Adair, the great jockey, suggested that I start riding at Los Alamitos," Baffert said. "I told him that I didn't think I was good enough. He said, 'Then why ride at all?' I quit the next day." . . .

With Derby winner Grindstone retired because of an injury, Cavonnier will be either the first or second betting choice in the Preakness, depending on whether Unbridled's Song runs. . . .

"The distance [1 3/16 miles] should be fine for Cavonnier," Baffert said. "The Belmont (1 1/2 miles) will be perfect for him. In fact, I not only was confident about the Derby, I told my wife that we had a shot at the Triple Crown." . . .

Their chances would still look pretty good today if Cavonnier hadn't been inadvertently struck across the face by the whip of a rival jockey near the home stretch in the Derby. . . .

"When I got on the plane on the way back from Louisville, everybody was telling me what a tough loss it was," Baffert said. "I didn't realize I had so many friends." . . .

*

The most dramatic matchup in baseball this season was Angel reliever Troy Percival against Cleveland slugger Albert Belle in the ninth inning at Anaheim Stadium on Sunday night. ESPN effectively switched between close-ups of pitcher and batter before Belle's blast on an 0-2 pitch cleared the center field fence and gave the Indians a 2-1 lead. . . .

Belle didn't smile until Jim Thome hit Cleveland's third home run of the inning. . . .

Maybe the fans at Jacobs Field should throw Snickers bars onto the field after each of Belle's homers. . . .

Not only are Barry Bonds and Henry Rodriguez on pace to break Roger Maris' home run record of 61, they are on pace to break Hack Wilson's record of 190 runs batted in. . . .

No player in the NBA has more ups and downs, often in the same game, than New York Knick guard John Starks. . . .

Considering that the NBA draft lasts only two rounds, there will be barely enough room for all those undergraduates who have decided to make themselves eligible. . . .

I figured that John Lucas wouldn't be back as the Philadelphia 76ers' coach after they finished 42 games behind the Orlando Magic in the Atlantic Division. . . .

Oregon State, once a Pacific 10 Conference basketball power, seems about to make a comeback under second-year Coach Eddie Payne, who is doing a good job of recruiting. . . .

There have been so many exciting overtime games in the NHL playoffs that you wonder why the league doesn't expand its regular-season, five-minute overtime period that too often settles nothing. . . .

The Miami Arena will be rocking tonight when the Florida Panthers try to eliminate the Philadelphia Flyers in the sixth game of their series. The Panthers are so hot that they are making bigger headlines in Miami than Jimmy Johnson's daily doings. . . .

Say what you want about Mike Keenan, but the New York Rangers haven't been the same since he left and the St. Louis Blues are coming on strong. . . .

The Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times Tennis Marathon will begin Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the UCLA Tennis Center. . . .

What's the Galaxy's magic number?

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