LOUISVILLE — It was as if Bob Baffert was so happy he couldn't stop talking.
It was Sunday morning at Churchill Downs Barn 33, the day after American Pharoah had given the 62-year-old trainer his fourth Kentucky Derby victory, and as the trainer was speaking with reporters, you got the feeling he was starting to feel the significance.
"It still hasn't sunk in that I won the Derby again," Baffert said.
Ah, but the process is surely beginning.
His 10-year-old son Bode wanted to celebrate Saturday night at Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, so the Bafferts had a late dinner, joined up with winning owner Ahmed Zayat's family and watched the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.
"We just talked about how relieved and lucky we are the horses ran so well," Baffert said of the winner and stablemate Dortmund, who finished third for owner Kaleem Shah.
This Derby was different, however. Baffert's first three Derby victories came in a span of six years. His last win was in 2002 with War Emblem. Since then, Baffert had entered a dozen Derby horses without success. The losing streak taught him not just humility, but also how difficult it is to win the roses.
"I think this win was sort of different than my other ones," Baffert said Sunday. "I needed to get it done. I needed to win it."
And later: "I may not have another chance like this. It's so hard. I know how hard and tough it is."
We think of Baffert as being among the best Kentucky Derby trainers, and rightfully so, but before Saturday he had saddled six Derby favorites without a win. Even when Baffert's Real Quiet won in 1998, the Baffert-trained Indian Charlie finished third as the favorite.
In 1999, the Excellent Meeting (fifth) and General Challenge (11th) entry was the favorite. In 2001, Point Given finished fifth as the favorite. In 2010 and 2012, Lookin At Lucky and Bodemeister respectively both finished second, and both were owned by Zayat.
"I know what it's like being in a barn the next day, just sitting there by yourself thinking about what could have happened," Baffert said.
And when you win the Kentucky Derby once, much less three times, people expect you do it again. That's especially true in a year when you train the top two betting choices in the race, as Baffert did with Pharoah and Dortmund.
"It was a lot of pressure on me, my family and Jill. And Bode had a lot of pressure," Baffert said. "He didn't want to watch the race with me. He wanted space. He wanted to be there by himself back there because I know what it meant to him."
On the other hand, despite the nerves of the week, Baffert knew he had something good going, something very good.
"I felt like something was building and something was supposed to happen, and it did," Baffert said. "It was a big sigh of relief. It was like mission accomplished. That was the feeling I had.
"My boys were excited. Bode was (excited), if you've seen the video of him, he was just amazing. It's for them. It's for the owner ... It wasn't for Bob Baffert. Getting the fourth Derby, that means nothing to me. It means that they gave me a really good horse and I didn't screw it up. I had the talent. Anybody could train this horse and win it."
Baffert was the one who trains the horse.
There was a great picture last week of Baffert at Old Friends, the farm for retired Thoroughbreds outside at Georgetown. Bode Baffert is watching his father pet Silver Charm, the trainer's first Derby winner in 1997, seven years before Bode was born.
To Baffert that might seem like a lifetime ago. When he won that first one, and maybe the one after, maybe those were for him. This victory was for the ones around him, his owner, his family, his wife and kids.
"It was so funny," said Baffert, "after we won the Derby we were walking to the press conference and Bode said, 'Daddy, thank you for fulfilling my Derby dream.' It meant a lot."