On the kind of Kentucky spring morning that makes you glad to be alive, Bob Baffert was talking about the first time horse racing nearly killed him.
The longtime, highly decorated trainer was leaning on the rail along the backstretch at Churchill Downs, a survivor freshly appreciative of his surroundings. The historic Twin Spires loomed across the track in bright sunshine, and a strong Kentucky Derby contender was stabled in his barn. He was talking about 1977.
Back then, Baffert was a college kid who rode quarter horses in his native Arizona to earn spending money, though he readily admits he wasn't a very good jockey; he lacked the nerve and commitment to take the necessary risks for the usual winning rider's purse of $30.
One day on a dusty racetrack in Kingman, he was exercising a horse named Jet Meyer. Baffert's saddle slipped, and he was thrown underneath the horse. Jet Meyer stepped on his chest, cracking his sternum and scraping off the skin.