As a cricketer, Bjorn Baker, makes an outstanding racehorse trainer.
“I played a lot of cricket when I was young but let’s just say I was limited,’’ Baker said this week. “My father was a very good player but I wasn’t ‘bred’ for it – Kiwi father, Swedish mother. The northern hemisphere-southern hemisphere ‘cross’ is so dominant in racing but it wasn’t so successful for me as a cricketer.’’
Baker’s father, Murray, played first-class cricket when he was only 17 for a Central Districts team that included six New Zealand Test players.
“Murray would have played for New Zealand if he did not travel and go overseas,’’ Baker said. “He was a very good cricketer, an extremely gifted sportsman.’’
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Bjorn Baker is enjoying his best season in Sydney since moving from New Zealand. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
Fortunately for racing, the “Baker Boys” chose thoroughbred training as their calling. Murray Baker is regarded as one of New Zealand’s all-time great trainers, a Hall of Famer, who has been winning Australia’s major races for 30 years.
He has put the polish on such stars as The Phantom, My Eagle Eye, Prized Gem, Lion Tamer, Mongolian Khan, It’s A Dundeel, Nom De Jeu, Turn Me Loose and Bonneval. Quick Thinker provided the trainer with his fifth win the ATC Australian Derby earlier this year.
Although Bjorn may not have inherited his father’s skills as a cricketer, he is certainly making his own mark as a racehorse trainer.
When Baanone scored at the Canterbury midweeks, it provided Baker with his 50th winner on Sydney tracks this season, more than double the 24 city winners he prepared last season, and taking him to fourth on the trainers’ premiership.
“I was a batsman when I played cricket so I know the significance of getting a ‘half century’,’’ Baker said. “This is my best season as a trainer so far and if you had told me at the start of the season I would get 50 city winners I would have been thrilled.’’
Samadoubt set the tone for Baker’s super season when he win the Group 1 Winx Stakes last August before backing up to win the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes. He raced competitively at weight-for-age through the spring but a leg injury has ruled the gelding out of racing this year.
“Samadoubt certainly helped give the stable a confidence boost to start of the season,’’ Baker said. “Sometimes it is difficult to keep that momentum going but we have been fairly consistent all season.’’
Samadoubt scored a surprise Group 1 win in the Winx Stakes last year. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Baker has trained 119 winners on all tracks so far during 2019-20 – with just under two months of the season remaining he will break his previous season’s best of 121 wins – and his stable of runners have already earned $6.3 million prizemoney, another career-best effort.
The trainer is poised to keep his stable’s winning momentum going at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday where he has a powerful entry of nine runners including race favourites Soldier Of Love and Miss Einstein.
Soldier Of Love ($3.70 favourite) is chasing a hat-trick of wins in the De Bortoli Wines Handicap (1800m) and is another example of Baker’s ability to keep his horses winning over extended periods. The trainer has also brilliantly managed the likes of Positive Peace and She’s Ideel among others through their winning streaks during this season.
“It’s hard not to like what Soldier Of Love is doing at the moment,’’ Baker said.
“Soldier Of Love just keeps rolling along, he’s a promising horse. This is another test for him but he is improving all the time so we will see what happens. Canasta is in the same race and he’s a horse I think has a future. A drier track will help him.’’
Miss Einstein ($4 equal favourite) lines up in the Yes Yes Yes New To Coolmore Handicap (1500m) with Baker hoping the mare has better luck than last start when she was held up for a run in the straight and finished fifth to Bound To Win.
“She should have been right in the finish last start,’’ Baker said. “She’s racing well and deserves a change of luck. I’m really happy with her.’’
Soldier Of Love is chasing a hat-trick of wins on Saturday at Rosehill Gardens. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
Baker’s other Rosehill runners are Able Hill in the Darley 2yo Handicap (1100m), Edison and Bring The Ransom line up in the Rosehill Bowling Club Handicap (1200m), Miss Invincible is in the Catanachs Sprint (1100m), and stablemates Night Of Power and Bold And Wild are in the Sky Racing Active Handicap (1300m).
At Eagle Farm tomorrow, Baker’s classy mare Irithea, winner of the Group 3 Dark Jewel Classic last start, is chasing another feature race win in the Group 2 $175,000 Dane Ripper Stakes (1400m).
“She’s trained on well since her Rosehill win and had a barrier trial last week to keep her up to the mark,’’ Baker said. “From the inside barrier, she is going to get her chance.’’
Although Baker is without Samadoubt this spring, the trainer revealed top mares Positive Peace, winner of five successive races culminating in the Group 2 Emancipation Stakes, and the highly promising She’s Ideel will be among those to lead the stable’s big-race charge in the new season.
“Positive Peace is about two or three weeks away from returning to the stable but she proved in the autumn she is up to the better mares races,’’ Baker said. “I’ve got a lot of time for She’s Ideel. She won three in a row earlier this year before I sent her for a spell.
“She’s a promising horse and returns to the stable on Tuesday. I’m definitely looking at Group races in the spring with her. I’ll nominate her for all of them and see where we go.’’
Talented mare Positive Peace will be among Bjorn Baker’s main hopes in the spring. Picture: AAPSource:AAP
Baker said the continuing evolution of his training business since he moved to Sydney a decade ago and his success this season is due, in no small part, to “teamwork”.
“I’ve got some great people around me because you can’t do it alone,’’ Baker said. “Our track riders do a great job, so does my manager Steven McLean and stable foreman Jason Patrick.
“I also have a very understanding wife, Andrea, who does all my social media, and you will probably say I’m biased, but I think what she does is probably the best in the game. Andrea is a great support to our team, she’s the ‘captain’.
“She deals with the highs and lows I experience as a trainer and keeps it real.’’
Baker has certainly made the most of his career gamble to leave a successful training partnership with his father in New Zealand to set up a training business in Sydney nearly 10 years. He acted on advice his father had instilled in him from a young age to focus on Australian racing.
“Murray has been concerned about New Zealand racing for a long time and a lot of what he has said over the last 20-30 years is really hitting home now, unfortunately,’’ Baker said.
“Even when I was a kid and he had horses like The Phantom and My Eagle Eye, the first thing he wanted to do with them was to race them in Australia.
“His influence had a big impact on why I decided to come across to Sydney a decade ago. I love training here, I’m lucky to call Sydney home.’’
Originally published asBaker keeps head down after hitting half century
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