Dubai, UAE, 29 March 2012 – Bernie Schiappa traces his roots back to New Jersey, but the transplanted Easterner has found a home in Las Vegas, and a friend in New Mexico native and Hall of Fame horse trainer Bob Baffert.
Schiappa is co-owner of 2012 Group 1 US$10 million Dubai World Cup, sponsored by Emirates Airline, contender Game On Dude. “G-O-D”, an acronym Schiappa points out, is a multiple graded stakes winner of more than US$2.2 million dollars. Schiappa is hoping to add to those earnings with the lion’s share of Saturday’s US$10,000,000 purse.
The relationship between Bob Baffert and Bernie Schiappa began as both men realized that they had very similar personalities.
“We’re both nuts,” said Schiappa. “That’s the truth. We have the same likes and the same family values. And the owners who have horses with Bob are just fantastic people to be around. It’s just a great experience.”
One of those owners is Ahmed Zayat, who has sent many horses to Baffert over the years, including 2009 Kentucky Derby second-place finisher Pioneer of the Nile.
“The first time I went on the road with Bob was with Pioneer of the Nile,” reflected Schiappa. “I went to the 2009 Kentucky Derby with him and we just became better and better friends. That was a great experience. It felt like I was the owner of the horse, with Bob and Mr. Zayat, the way I was treated.”
After flying to Dubai last Sunday with his wife Jill and son Bode, Baffert was up at 3 a.m. Monday to watch one of his horses race at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Baffert began having chest pains and sweaty palms, and fortunately his wife Jill insisted that the paramedics were called.
Baffert had suffered a heart attack. Thanks to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Baffert received emergency surgery from noted cardiologist, Dr. Rajesh Ralpancholia, or “Dr. Armani” as Baffert called the stylish doctor.
Those that know Baffert are not the least bit surprised that he has missed participating in the events leading up to the Dubai World Cup. But, Baffert has stayed in touch by tweeting his followers and texting his entourage non-stop.
“He was texting me before the post position draw,” said Schiappa. “He told me to get his son Bode and get interviewed, so that he could see his son on TV. After the interview he kept texting me about how great that was, but I’m not going to tell you what he said to me after Game On Dude drew post 14!”
Schiappa has nothing but respect for the white-haired trainer.
“I think people in the racing game should know what Bob does for the racing game itself,” Schiappa said. “It’s not just for Bob Baffert. It’s amazing how he treats people. We can be running to the paddock and he’ll still stop for people. That’s just him.”
On Saturday Baffert will be attempting to win his third Dubai World Cup with Game On Dude, having taken it in 1998 with Silver Charm and in 2001 with Captain Steve. If the elegant gelding wins the world’s richest horse race, history would be made. Jockey Chantal Sutherland would become the first female to ride a Dubai World Cup winner.
Schiappa will be at Meydan on Saturday with his wife, partners and friends, but the big question remains – Will Baffert will make it to the races? Schiappa has no doubt.
“He hasn’t said it, but I would just bet money that he will be here,” Schiappa said. “He loves the racing game. He’s bred this way.”