Ex-Bob Baffert apprentice has two Kentucky Derby contenders

Ex-Bob Baffert apprentice has two Kentucky Derby contenders

ARCADIA, Calif. — Tim Yakteen has been to the Kentucky Derby with good horses earlier than. Now the coach is at Churchill Downs in cost for the primary time with two prime contenders that was educated by Corridor of Famer Bob Baffert has been to the Kentucky Derby with good horses earlier than. Now the coach is at Churchill Downs in cost for the primary time with two prime contenders that was educated by Corridor of Famer Bob Baffert.

Yakteen labored two totally different stints earlier in his profession as an apprentice below Baffert, who gained’t be on the Derby on Saturday as a result of he’s serving a 90-day suspension imposed by Kentucky racing officers. The six-time Derby winner additionally has been banned for 2 years by Churchill Downs Inc.

It could appear uncomfortable to most everybody besides Yakteen.

“I wouldn’t say that I believe that there’s any awkwardness there,” he stated. “I simply really feel actually fortunate and lucky.”

A stunned Yakteen took calls from the house owners of Messier and Taiba asking him to coach their budding stars.

Messier, educated by Tim Yakteen, works out at Churchill Downs in preparation for the Kentucky Derby.AP

“I used to be honored they’d the boldness that I might proceed to hold the torch,” he stated, perched on a trunk close to Messier’s stall in his Santa Anita barn.

Baffert relinquished the colts to serve the punishment handed down after final 12 months’s Derby winner, Medina Spirit, examined constructive for an anti-inflammatory treatment that isn’t allowed on race day.

Baffert’s suspension bars him from Santa Anita and Yakteen stated they’ve had no conversations since he took cost of Messier, the early 8-1 third alternative within the Derby, and Taiba, a 12-1 shot.

Taiba is owned by Amr Zedan, who campaigned Medina Spirit earlier than that colt died in December after a exercise at Santa Anita.

Yakteen has about 30 horses of various skills in his barn. Including Messier and Taiba has offered a jolt of constructive power, he stated.

“I’ve by no means, ever woken up and never needed to go to work,” he stated. “I get pleasure from it tremendously.”

Yakteen’s profession highlights embody 4 Grade 1 stakes victories, together with Taiba within the latest Santa Anita Derby, and an Eclipse Award for champion sprinter Factors Offthebench. He has greater than 250 profession victories and purse earnings of over $12 million.

Corridor of Fame jockey Mike Smith will experience Taiba within the Derby, having efficiently teamed with Yakteen in California.

“He’s a type of guys you’re feeling assured while you experience for him,” Smith stated. “He’s been round lengthy sufficient. I believe he’ll be nice.”

Taiba, educated by Tim Yakteen, works out at Churchill Downs in preparation for the Kentucky Derby.AP

Yakteen was raised in Germany, the place his Lebanese father was stationed with the U.S. Military after turning into an American citizen.

He moved to the U.S. at age 18 in 1982, becoming a member of a sister who lived subsequent to Los Alamitos racetrack in Cypress, Calif. He attended the races for the primary time and was hooked.

“That evening was electrifying and it’s been with me ever since,” he stated.

He obtained a day job on the monitor working in publicity, group gross sales and advertising and marketing. At evening, he’d watch the races.

It wasn’t lengthy earlier than Yakteen made his approach to the secure space, providing to work without cost filling water buckets and mucking stalls. He took up dwelling in a tack room.

“I loved each facet of it,” he stated. “I had a aim that I needed to be a part of the trade.”

After beginning with harness horses, Yakteen obtained employed by a white-haired quarter horse coach named Baffert, who had left Arizona to chase his personal dream. When Baffert switched to thoroughbreds in 1988, Yakteen stayed with him.

A number of years later, Yakteen was within the racing workplace at Santa Anita when he crossed paths with Corridor of Fame coach Charlie Whittingham, who stated howdy.

“I used to be like, ‘Wow, the pope spoke to me,’ ” Yakteen stated. “The timing was good.”

He joined Whittingham’s secure as an assistant. By 1994, Yakteen was at his first Kentucky Derby serving to with second-place finisher Strode’s Creek.

Two years later, he and Whittingham returned with a Derby runner. On the identical time, Baffert was ending second with Cavonnier in his first Derby.

In 1997, Yakteen returned to Baffert’s barn and for the subsequent seven years he was a part of the workforce that labored with back-to-back Kentucky Derby winners Silver Appeal and Actual Quiet and 2001 Derby champion Conflict Emblem.

Having discovered persistence and the power to learn a horse’s delicate indicators from Baffert and Whittingham, Yakteen opened his personal secure in 2004.

By then, he had married Millie Ball, an train rider for Baffert. She’s now a bunch and reporter for digital horse racing community XBTV.

The couple’s two sons, 16-year-old Sam and 14-year-old Ben, shall be at dwelling “pouting” about lacking the Derby due to faculty, Yakteen stated

What is going to occur after the Derby is up within the air.

Yakteen stated there’s been no discussions about whether or not Messier and Taiba will keep in his barn. Baffert’s suspension runs by means of July 2, conserving him out of the Preakness on Might 21 and the Belmont on June 11.“It’s like having a lottery ticket type of fall in your lap,” he stated. “Now we’re attempting to money it.”

“I’m conserving my fingers crossed that if we’ve a profitable marketing campaign that shall be a practical alternative,” Yakteen stated.

At 57, Yakteen is aware of the massive odds a coach faces in getting one horse to the Kentucky Derby. And he has two.

— AP

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