Bob Baffert is planning to watch the Derby from his couch

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Bob Baffert went from thinking he could win a fifth Kentucky Derby to being out of it in the space of a few seconds.

Once Mastery got hurt after winning a prep race this winter, Baffert no longer had a horse for the first Saturday in May. It was a huge blow to a trainer who’s missed the Derby just twice since 2009 and whose four victories are tied for second-most in history.

Mastery won the San Felipe Stakes by 6 } lengths at Santa Anita, and Baffert made his way to the winner’s circle believing the colt was “the second coming” of his Triple Crown champion American Pharoah.

“We were so excited,” he said Tuesday. “I had taken my time with him. I wanted him ready for all three races.”

But just past the finish line, Mastery took a bad step and sustained a condylar fracture, a common injury among thoroughbreds. The colt had screws inserted in his left front ankle and is recovering.

“It’s a part of the game that gets really bitter,” Baffert said. “It gets you so upset. It can be so cruel.”

Now there’s no need for metal barriers to keep back crowds outside Baffert’s barn on the backstretch at Churchill Downs. All the pre-Derby hustle and bustle is going on elsewhere in the stable area. No media hordes waiting for a few bon mots from the white-haired trainer.

That’s what happens when you’re an observer and not a participant in America’s greatest race.

Don’t think it doesn’t bother him.

“I’m just trying to get there again,” he said. “I want another shot at it with an American Pharoah (foal). His babies look really good.”

In 2015, American Pharoah swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont for the sport’s first Triple Crown victory in 37 years. The horse retired later that year and is now busy producing offspring that Baffert hopes follow in their sire’s hoof prints.

He bred a mare to American Pharoah, who stands in nearby Lexington, where the trainer and his wife Jill have visited their equine friend who became like family.

American Pharoah’s achievement cemented Baffert’s reputation as one of the greatest trainers in the sport’s history. Even without a current Derby runner, he still got rock-star treatment Tuesday from backstretch visitors eager for signed photos, ball caps and whiskey bottles done up in the colors of American Pharoah’s silks.

Fans posed against the backdrop of green-and-white signs nailed to the barn wall naming Baffert’s Derby and Triple Crown winners.

They shouldn’t feel sorry for him. He trains Arrogate, a 4-year-old colt who was injured during last year’s Triple Crown series but rebounded to win the Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup, racking up $17 million in earnings. Arrogate is set to resume racing this summer.

Baffert does have one bit of business this week. He’s here to saddle filly Abel Tasman in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks on Friday. Then he’ll fly home to Southern California on Saturday morning and be back in time to catch the Derby from the comfort of his couch.

“I’ll be watching everybody stressing out,” he said. “It’ll be fun.”

Baffert has a rooting interest in four Derby runners that were sired by horses he once trained.

“That’s when you know you’ve been in this game a long time,” the 64-year-old Hall of Famer said.

Two of them – Always Dreaming and Classic Empire – could be the favorites for the 1 \-mile race. Always Dreaming, trained by Todd Pletcher, was sired by Pioneerof the Nile. Classic Empire, trained by Mark Casse, was sired by Bodemeister.

The other two will be longshots. Lookin At Lee, trained by Steve Asmussen, was sired by Lookin At Lucky. Sonneteer, who is 0 for 10 in his career and trained by Keith Desormeaux, was sired by Midnight Lute, who never ran in the Derby.

Baffert is also cheering on his pal Bode Miller, part-owner of Fast And Accurate, one of an expected 20 horses in the field. For years, the Olympic skier has been a Derby week regular at Baffert’s barn. The trainer’s pre-teen son is named for the athlete.

“It’s a different feeling if you’ve got a horse in there,” Baffert said. “Believe me, he’ll come out of it with a totally different perception. He’ll understand what it’s all about – the importance of the race, the emotions that run through you. Everybody should go through it.”

Baffert hopes he does again next year.

Preakness winner Cloud Computing to skip Belmont Stakes

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NEW YORK —¬†Preakness winner Cloud Computing won’t run in the Belmont Stakes, leaving the final leg of the Triple Crown without the winners of the first two races.

Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming also won’t run in the 1+-mile Belmont on June 10 in New York.

Trainer Chad Brown confirmed Sunday that Cloud Computing would skip the Belmont, which had been expected.

Brown will still have a starter in the $1.5 million race: Twisted Tom, who won the Federico Tesio on April 22. Because Twisted Tom wasn’t already nominated to the Triple Crown series, it will cost $75,000 to get him in the race. He will try to become the third gelding in history to win.

Other confirmed Belmont runners are Classic Empire, Japan-based Epicharis, J Boys Echo, Lookin At Lee, Senior Investment, Tapwrit and True Timber. Irap, Meantime and Multiplier are considered likely.

Also possible are Conquest Mo Money, Gormley, Hollywood Handsome, Irish War Cry and Patch.

The Belmont field is limited to 16 horses.

Lady Eli ends skid with win in Grade 1 Gamely at Santa Anita

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Lady Eli won the $300,000 Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares by a half-length at Santa Anita, ending a two-race skid as the heavy 3-5 favorite.

Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Lady Eli ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:45.29 on Saturday.

Goodyearforroses was second, followed by Avenge, Mokat and Pretty Girl.

Lady Eli paid $3.20, $2.20 and $2.10. All but $18,388 of the total show pool of $315,505 was wagered on her in the Grade 1 race.

The 5-year-old dark brown mare has eight wins in 11 career starts and has never finished worse than second for New York-based trainer Chad Brown, who won the Preakness with Cloud Computing last weekend.

Lady Eli was coming off two close losses: by a nose in the Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland in April and by a head in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf last November.