BALTIMORE - It's not like Bob Baffert isn't already doing everything he can to save horse racing.
But that didn't stop the trainer with the shock of white hair and the most recognizable mug in the sport from adding one more task to his list — playing traffic cop at the entrance to the winner's circle Saturday at the Preakness. Still carrying his young son, Bode, in one arm, Baffert waded into a fast-growing crowd of well-wishers trying to crash the party.
He was trying to make room for Lookin At Lucky and Martin Garcia, the bay colt and deli-counter-guy-turned-jockey who just put him back on top of the world.
"Hold it right here," Baffert yelled. "The horse is not coming in here until everybody gets back!"
Never mind that Baffert's wife, Jill, and co-owner Mike Pegram, a close pal who first staked Baffert to enough cash to step up from the quarterhorse ranks nearly 20 years ago, were stuck on the wrong side of the yellow rope. At least until he came to their rescue.
"Yeah," Pegram grinned afterward, "we did have a little problem getting in.
"Fortunately, we got a lot of friends, but people have to do their jobs. I think," he added sheepishly, "we've got a reputation for breaking the rules sometimes with those winner's circle photos."
Bitter rivals once upon a time — they traded barbs, fought fiercely over owners and bid recklessly against one another at the yearling sales — the two are now thick as thieves. Just before the race, Baffert decided to stay out of the owners section of the grandstand and watch from the railing in front of the jockeys' box.
"Hey, Wayne," Baffert called out to Lukas just seconds before the gate opened, "what numbers we betting?"
Speaking of numbers, Baffert and Lukas are now tied for the second-most Preakness wins with five. They're also the two active trainers with the most Triple Crown wins — Lukas has 13, Baffert 9 — and the gap may be closing. Lukas hasn't won a Triple Crown race since 2000. Baffert's last Triple win was here with War Emblem in 2002.
"I know it's been a few years, but this was a different kind of win," he said. "This is more of a redemption win."
It couldn't have been sweeter considering everything else going on in his life. Back at the Baffert family home in Nogales, Ariz., his mother, Ellie, is gravely ill and struggling to catch every big race. Baffert fought back tears during an interview on the track after his win, looking straight into the camera and saying, "Hi Mom."
"The thing about him," Baffert said, referring to Garcia, "is that he comes from humble beginnings, and he's a very humble guy.
"Before the race, he kept thanking me for putting him on the horse. He was supposed to be worrying about the Preakness and all he kept doing was thanking me."
Yet it wasn't long before Baffert's sincerity gave way to his sense of humor. Once he and Pegram took their chairs in the interview room, the back-and-forth began between him and co-owners Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitmann. In the middle of it all, Garcia was trying to keep a straight face.
Turning toward his young jockey, Baffert said at one point, "I want to see you cry or something."
"Losers cry," Watson cut in. "He's no loser."
"I think I'm talking too much," Baffert said at another moment.
"I can tell you where the restrooms are," he offered.
When someone asked what time Baffert would be at the barns Sunday morning, Pegram answered first, "He's going to be here all night."
"All night," Baffert confirmed. "I'm going to get nice and drunk."
Lookin At Lucky's celebration won't be anything nearly that wild, just some well-deserved rest and perhaps a shot at the last leg of the Triple Crown. Baffert said earlier in the week the 1 1/2-mile distance made him leery of the Belmont, and he was noncommittal after the race.
Yet the horse has already accomplished something big. Beaten by Super Saver in the slop at the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, he renewed Baffert's faith in the colt and maybe even in the trainer himself.
"I've made some bonehead moves," Baffert said with a grin and looking at Pegram. "That's all right. That's what happens. Sometimes we'll take a shot and it didn't work.
"I'm just glad to be up here talking to you guys," Baffert said finally, "because it's been a while."
An aging trainer, an unretired jockey and a 15-1 underdog teamed Saturday to shatter Orb's bid for the first Triple Crown since Affirmed won it in 1978.
Take a look at some notable horses who have won the Preakness Stakes.
Triple Crown winners
The horses that have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in the same year.
Derby Day finery
Fashion statements fill Churchill Downs as race fans display their hats.
Wild party at the Preakness
Images of fans and the scene during the Preakness over the years.