A gritty win by New Zealand-bred two-year-old War Eternal at Royal Randwick on Saturday provided ex-pat Kiwi trainer Bjorn Baker with a victory that propelled him into second place on the Sydney Metropolitan Trainers’ Premiership (56 wins) behind runaway leader and fellow Kiwi Chris Waller (159).
Baker is justifiably proud of his record this season, where he also lies in third place behind Waller and Kris Lees on the New South Wales state-wide premiership with 116 wins and over A$6.6million in prizemoney.
His 2020/21 performance comes off the back of another stellar year in 2019/20 and firmly establishes him in the upper echelon of the Sydney trainers ranks.
“I had a really good season last year and we’ve managed to back that up again over the last 12 months,” Baker said.
“Given that has been achieved in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and all that comes with that, I’m really proud of my staff and our racing team for what we have achieved.
“Actually, if you had said to me at the start of the season we would be lying second on the Metro premiership, I would probably have said you were mad.
“I think one of our biggest success stories though is how many horses we have managed to graduate from midweek company through to the ultra-competitive Saturday racing grade.
“We’ve also had the second most Saturday metro runners which shows our horses are sound, they can back up and they can race against the best.
“We certainly don’t have the numbers and the level of investment that some our main rivals have, but we have shown we can punch above our weight despite that.”
Baker is hoping that horses like War Eternal will get him off and running when the new racing season rolls around on August 1.
“I was thrilled with that win and he is definitely a horse on the rise,” he said.
“Cambridge Stud bred him and we bought him for $160,000 out of their draft at Karaka in 2020.
“The biggest question mark with this guy is where we go next with him.
“The Up And Coming Stakes (Gr.3, 1300m) in early August is one option for him, while we could also put him away for a break.
“He’s still got plenty of maturing to do and is far from the finished product, but I’m excited about his potential.”
One of Baker’s biggest fans is his father Murray, a Hall Of Fame trainer and regular raider of Aussie riches, who is delighted to see how well his son is doing.
“When you think about just how competitive that Sydney racing scene is and then you see Kiwis like Chris Waller, Bjorn and James McDonald at the top of the trainers’ and jockeys’ premierships, then it does make you proud,” Baker snr said.
“Bjorn did it tough early on, but over the past few years he has really hit his stride.
“His stable communication is very good and importantly, he has managed to keep a steady stream of good younger horses coming through which I think is the key to success for any stable.
“Mind you with COVID and the like we don’t get to see much of him, his wife or our grandkids so that’s one thing I’d like to see change.
“He runs a good ship and doesn’t need me to tell him what to do, but I do like heading over there with a horse or two so I’m having a few withdrawal symptoms about that at the moment as we haven’t been able to visit of late.”
– NZ Racing Desk