ELMONT, N.Y. - It is the time of year that 13-year-old Bode Baffert finds so hilarious, when strangers recognize his father in crowded airports or restaurants but rarely get his name right.
"Lukas?" people sometimes guess, mistaking Bob Baffert for his venerable rival, fellow National Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who bears zero resemblance and, at 82, is 17 years older.
"The horse guy!" others blurt out.
In the world of thoroughbred racing, only one syllable is required.
"You say 'Bob' in the racing industry, and there's only one Bob," notes Joe Harper, CEO of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, a longtime family friend. "With the blue blazer, yellow tie and white hair walking his horse to the barn for the Derby, that is recognized around the world."
Baffert's profile stands to rise higher in Saturday's Belmont Stakes, when his unbeaten chestnut colt, Justify, attempts to become the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown.
In one sense, there is little more for Baffert to achieve. Inducted into the sport's Hall of Fame in 2009, he reached the pinnacle of racing in 2015, stopping the sport's 37-year Triple Crown drought with American Pharoah.
He has also tied Lukas's record of 14 wins in Triple Crown races (five Kentucky Derbies, seven Preaknesses and two Belmonts) and hauled in four Eclipse Awards as the season's top trainer, three Breeders' Cup Classics and more than $276 million in career earnings.
But Baffert would join a more exclusive club Saturday with a second Triple Crown, taking his place alongside the late James Fitzsimmons (Gallant Fox in 1930; Omaha in 1935) as the only two men to have achieved the feat twice.
Saturday will mark the fifth time Baffert has arrived at Belmont Park with a shot at the Triple Crown. And he pronounced everything right with the world — at least, the small, dirt corner of it he controls — after watching his massive, muscular colt gallop on the dry track Friday morning.
"This is what a trainer hopes to see the day before his horse runs," said Baffert, who was joined by representatives of the four-way corporate partnership that owns Justify, whose record is 5-0 since making his debut as a late-developing 3-year-old on Feb. 18. "Coming off the track, he was just full of himself. He just seems like he's still improving, and so he looks like he is ready to run."
Those who've followed Baffert's career say multiple factors account for his success.
For starters, he surrounds himself with top people who share his attention to detail, noted Jay Hovdey, executive columnist for Daily Racing Form, who has known Baffert for years.
That detail was on display Friday morning, as Baffert turned his binoculars skyward at a news helicopter whirring over Belmont Park, presumably to capture footage of Justify's session. He explained later how relieved he was to have put earplugs in the colt's ears before the session; the strange sound could have spooked the horse.
He also has a keen eye for a horse's potential — as well as potential problems, able to "listen" to the athlete by watching.
"He can diagnose a physical problem with the horse before it has done lasting damage or damage to a career," Hovdey said. "He knows when to stop."
Lukas hails him as "an excellent horseman" who not only attracts top clients and horses but knows how to develop them. Asked about Baffert's prospects of breaking their shared record of Triple Crown race wins, Lukas said, "He's the heir apparent to all these records . . . . I mean, Bob is going to roll right past."