ARCADIA, Calif. — It was a Bob Baffert-like response to what has become a Baffert-like occurrence.
As the trainer stood on the Santa Anita Park apron Monday morning, he was asked about the four consecutive winners he had saddled at the track less than 24 hours earlier.
"It's that Hall of Fame thing," he quipped, referring to his induction earlier this year. "Ever since the Hall of Fame, my horses have been running better."
For all his self-deprecating humor, there is no downplaying the surge of momentum rolling through Baffert's barn as he looks for another milestone this weekend.
It remains to be seen whether his horses are peaking at the right time, but Baffert could not be on more of an upswing as he prepares to saddle four contenders in this weekend's Breeders' Cup World Championships.
He has already earned nine Grade I wins and an induction into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame this year, and Baffert heads into the Breeders' Cup with two likely favorites in Zensational (Sprint) and Lookin At Lucky (Juvenile) along with Classic contender Richard's Kid and Juvenile Fillies entrant Always a Princess.
Should Zensational capture the Sprint, it would make Baffert — who won the race the last two years with champion Midnight Lute — only the second trainer to win the same Breeders' Cup race three years in a row. D. Wayne Lukas accomplished the feat twice by taking the Distaff from 1985-87 and the Juvenile from 1986-88.
"We have to get there first," Baffert said when asked about the possible achievement. "But we have been really lucky, and ... you get in a roll where everything has been falling into place. We've picked the right spots and managed them well."
Baffert came into the Breeders' Cup on a similar high last year and won the Juvenile with Midshipman in addition to Midnight Lute's second Sprint triumph.
That Baffert has become one of the most successful trainers on California's synthetic tracks is all the more satisfying considering he was once so stymied by the surfaces, he pondered leaving the game.
The surface "wasn't fair when it came out; it was so unfair," Baffert said. "I thought if that was the future, I'm going to have to get a job selling shoes at Nordstrom or something; I can't do this. It was going to ruin the game.
"But out here (at Santa Anita), it plays like dirt; it's fair. They're working it differently, they're putting water on it, they're making it fair. When I hated it, everybody loved it, and now, when I like it, everybody hates it."
Baffert said he was feeling good about all his prospects after putting them through their final works the last two days, but the combined brilliance and consistency of his top sprinter and leading juvenile are what really have him on pins and needles of late.
Between the two of them, Zensational and Lookin At Lucky have five Grade I scores the last four months.
The 3-year-old Zensational, a son of Unbridled's Song, has won five of seven career starts, including his 21/4-length score in the Grade I Pat O'Brien Stakes, and Lookin At Lucky has yet to taste defeat in four career outings, most recently the Grade I Norfolk Stakes Oct. 4 at Santa Anita.
"I have confidence in those two, Zen and Lucky. The other two are doing great; they just need something to happen," Baffert said. "Lucky, he's been ready for two weeks. He just does everything and has a great mind.
"Zensational put in a brilliant half today (four furlongs in 451⁄5). It looked like he was galloping; it was ridiculous. He needs to prove it against top competition, but that's what the Breeders' Cup is all about."