LOUISVILLE — Bob Baffert is nervous.
"Yeah, I'm a little nervous," said the trainer.
He doesn't look nervous. Standing in the doorway of Barn 33 at Churchill Downs on Friday morning, he looks every bit Bob Baffert. He is wearing pressed jeans, a black jacket and those ever-present shades beneath his trademark white hair.
"I'm nervous," said Baffert, "because I have a chance."
One would hope. Over the Friday-Saturday horse-apalooza that is the Breeders' Cup, Baffert was to run nine horses — it would have been 10 had the fever-ridden Prayer for Relief not scratched Thursday — over the two days in the sport's richest races.
"All the horses I've brought here are really good horses," he said.
Four ran Friday. Five are to run Saturday, the big day. Euroears drew the rail — "The Bob-hole," Baffert joked — in Race 5, the Sprint. The Factor and Irrefutable run in the seventh race, the Dirt Mile. Drill runs in the ninth race, the Juvenile. Then, Race 11, the Classic, Baffert sends Game On Dude to post.
"If I wasn't nervous that would mean I have no chance to win," Baffert said. "I'm a little nervous right now."
Before Friday, Baffert had run 57 Breeders' Cup horses. Seven hit the finish line first. He added an eighth with Secret Circle in the inaugural Juvenile Sprint on Friday.
Before Friday, the last two were in 2008. Midshipman won the Juvenile. Midnight Lute captured the Sprint.
This year, Euroears is coming off an eighth-place run in the Vosburgh, when he broke worse than badly. Before that, he won the Grade I Bing Crosby on July 31. And Oct. 24, he turned in an outrageously fast 5-furlong workout of :574⁄5.
The Factor owns two wins at 7 furlongs. He set the Santa Anita track record at 6 furlongs breaking his maiden last December. No matter. Baffert declined to put The Factor against Euroears in the Sprint, opting instead for the Dirt Mile.
"The Factor is incredible," Baffert said. "He's hitting on all cylinders, so he's going to be very tough."
In the Juvenile, Drill ran second last time out to Creative Cause in the Norfolk.
"Drill got drilled," Baffert joked Friday.
Can he bounce back?
"I don't know."
He is more confident about Game On Dude, a 4-year-old gelding by Adena Springs' Awesome Again who has won a pair of Grade I races, the Santa Anita Handicap and the Goodwood, this year.
He has been third or better in all but one start this year. The aberration: Fourth in Del Mar's Pacific Classic.
"I think he has a very good chance," Baffert said Friday. "I have the best-looking jockey (Chantal Sutherland) in the race. I think I should get a 5-pound allowance for using a female jockey. I don't know what the problem is there."
Gender jokes aside, the sometime-model is more than capable. "She knows the horse really well, she gets along with him well," Baffert said. "She might be a really pretty girl and all that, but when she gets in the saddle she's very aggressive and knows how to get all the run out of Game On Dude."
Baffert has never won the Classic. He says no one outside of racing has ever asked him about it. Everyone asks him about the Kentucky Derby. He has won three of those. It's not the same.
"The Breeders' Cup is about money and championships," Baffert said. "The Derby is totally different. It's part of history. It sort of defines your racing career."
The Classic does not.
"I came close, running second with Silver Charm (1998, to Awesome Again)," Baffert said Friday. "That was a tough race, a great race. I was disappointed running second. But to win it would be great. It's a big payday."
Big enough to make him nervous.