Barred by Churchill Downs, Bob Baffert Is Welcomed at the Preakness

The racetrack known as Old Hilltop has long been a safe space for the trainer Bob Baffert. Eight times he has come to Baltimore with a horse fast enough to leave with the blanket of black-eyed Susans that are draped over the withers of the Preakness Stakes winner.

The green stakes barn with white trim is a friendly bunker for Baffert. It houses all the horses competing in the second leg of the Triple Crown and is the daylight-to-dusk hub for those who care for them. There are familiar faces, like Baffert’s mentor and friend D. Wayne Lukas, 88, who wears a Stetson better than anyone this side of John Wayne.

There are colleagues he would like to know better, like Ken McPeek, a burly Kentuckian who has brought his Kentucky Derby-winning colt, Mystik Dan, to Pimlico Race Course this week in search of another victory on Saturday.

Ken McPeek will run Mystik Dan, the Kentucky Derby winner, in the Preakness.Credit…Horsephotos/Getty Images

Twice, Pimlico has been the temporary home of Triple Crown champions trained by Baffert. In 2015, American Pharoah used it as his base on his way to becoming the first horse to sweep the series in 37 years. In 2018, Justify did the same.

Hands down, Baffert says, the Preakness is his favorite Triple Crown race: “Your Derby winner usually shows up there. We’re all in the same barn. It’s very relaxing, and it’s sort of fun.”

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