Cranbury, NJ --- Saturday's $5.6 million Breeders Crown spectacular will feature an array of familiar faces, both equine and human. After 29 years of Crown races, many will have been here before, but some like 52-year-old Bob Baggitt Jr., trainer of Don Dorado, will be making his Crown debut in the $500,000 2-year-old colt trot. This will also be the first-time Crown for owner Mitchell Walker, a farmer and nursery owner from Michigan.
"I'm originally from Michigan," said longtime New Jersey transplant Baggitt, who now lives in Bangor, Pennsylvania. "My brother-in-law Terry Tomlin (a Michigan Hall of Famer), broke him and trained him down for Mr. Walker, who bred and raised him. His mare, Quintessential K, had been a good 2-year-old, but got hurt at three. It's a good family, though. His second dam is Perfect Patty and she was a very good horse for Terry and Mr. Walker." Perfect Patty earned $281,407 for Walker while her foals have earned more than $1.1 million.
Baggitt has only had the Donato Hanover gelding in his barn for a short while, but he did get the chance to check him out prior to taking over training duties.
|Racehorse Photo.com photo|
|Don Dorado has won four of six starts and banked $224,640 in 2013.|
Don Dorado is the only gelding in the race, but Baggitt said that was more with an eye toward longevity than temperament.
"That's usually Terry's call. We are looking more to keeping him and having him race for a few years, so it really didn't matter whether he was a gelding or not. That's also why we skipped some of the other, bigger races and why we didn't go to Kentucky. We want to race him for a while yet."
While his racing career may well last as long as his connections would like, Don Dorado has already put up some pretty good numbers in just his freshman season, winning four of six starts and banking $224,640.
The largest portion of that bankroll came in the $260,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Final Championship at Harrah's Philadelphia, where he won easily on the front end in 1:56.2. He also added a second place finish to that tally and has one break showing on his card. But, according to Baggitt, that was uncharacteristic of the trotter, who races in trotting hobbles.
Baggitt, whose richest races to date have been with the pacer Aces N Sevens who was fourth to Gallo Blue Chip in the 2000 Meadowlands Pace and later won the Hoosier Cup that same year, said that he has not made it a point to watch Crown favorite Father Patrick's season this year and had not yet seen that one's 1:52.1 win over the pacesetter, Nuncio, in the Crown elimination on Oct. 11. Don Dorado's connections opted to take a bye in that race and head directly to the $500,000 Crown Final.
"Well, I don't know if I'm superstitious," he said. "But I like to just focus on my horse. That looks like it was a pretty good race. But I am happy with the bye and happy that we drew post six instead of farther out."
Father Patrick, who as the elimination winner could have drawn as far out as post five, instead drew post two while Nuncio is outside of both Father Patrick and Don Dorado, in post eight.
"It looks like it should be interesting," Baggitt said. "There could be a few who want the front end and who leave out of there for position."
Although it may be Walker and Baggitt's Crown debut, there is one member of the team who is a seasoned pro when it comes to helping "Crown" winners -- driver Tim Tetrick. Tetrick has been the gelding's regular driver, was in the bike for Don Dorado's Sire Stakes Final win and also drove him to a 6-1/2 length win in a qualifier on October 10.
Getting a commitment from Tetrick for a Crown drive is a distinct advantage. Tetrick is the only driver to win four Breeders Crowns in a single night, achieving that benchmark last year in the events at Woodbine, in Canada. He’s rapidly climbing the all-time earnings list, and is now eighth with $4.6 million -- despite making his first Crown start just five years ago.
"Timmy was very happy with him after that and said he was ready to go," Baggitt said. "Everyone is coming in to watch him and we are all excited about the race."