Baffert grew up on a ranch in Nogales, Arizona where his family raised cattle and chickens. When he was 10, his father purchased some Quarter Horses and he practiced racing them on a dirt track. In his teens, he worked as a jockey for $100 a day in informal Quarter Horse races on the outskirts of Nogales. He moved from there to racing at legalized tracks, scoring his first victory at age 17 in 1970.
Baffert graduated from the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program with a Bachelor of Science degree., got married, and began training quarter horses at a Prescott, Arizona farm. By age 20, he had developed a reputation as a trainer and was hired by other trainers to run their stables. In the 1980s, Baffert moved to California and worked at Los Alamitos Race Course, where he switched to training Thoroughbreds. He got his first big break in 1992, when he won his first Breeder's Cup race with Thirty Slews. He became the leading money-winning trainer in the United States four times.
Baffert's history in the American classic races began in 1996, when he trained a three-year-old colt named Cavonnier, who ran second in the Kentucky Derby. In 1997, he trained the gray colt Silver Charm to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, finishing second in the Belmont. Baffert would revisit the Derby the next year sending two top colts, Real Quiet and Indian Charlie to Louisville. Real Quiet won the race that year, but Baffert also finished third with Indian Charlie. Real Quiet went on to win the Preakness as well, but, like Silver Charm, the horse was denied a Triple Crown win and finished second in the Belmont Stakes by a nose. Baffert, however, became the first trainer in history to win the Derby and Preakness in back-to-back years.
Baffert did not win another classic race until 2001, when he swept the Preakness and Belmont Stakes with the eventual Hall of Fame member Point Given. Although he was denied a Derby win that year, he did manage to finish third in the race with Congaree. Baffert won the Derby a third time the following year with War Emblem. The colt went on to win the Preakness Stakes for Baffert, giving the trainer his third shot at winning the Triple Crown. The colt lost the Belmont Stakes due to breaking poorly from the starting gate and failed to finish in one of the top spots. Baffert did not have a horse hit the board again in any of the Triple Crown races until 2009, when he trained Pioneerof The Nile to a second-place finish in the Derby.
Finally, after waiting eight years Baffert trained Lookin At Lucky, co-owned by longtime client and good friend Mike Pegram, to win the Preakness Stakes in 2010. The colt skipped the Belmont Stakes but went on to become the champion three-year-old colt that year. In 2012, Baffert saddled Bodemeister, named for the trainer's youngest son Bode, to second-place finishes in the Derby and Preakness. The trainer would go on to saddle Paynter in the Belmont Stakes later that year, but that colt, like his stablemate Bodemeister, could only manage a second-place finish.
In 2015, Baffert trained the 2014 champion two-year-old colt American Pharoah to win the Triple Crown, the first to do so in 37 years. He won 141st Kentucky Derby, bringing his total number of victories in the race to four; Baffert also ran third-place finisher, the previously undefeated colt Dortmund. As of 2015 Baffert is currently tied for second place with D. Wayne Lukas for most wins by a trainer in the Derby. American Pharoah next won the 140th Preakness Stakes, making six victories for Baffert; who also finished fourth with Dortmund. Then, when American Pharoah won the 2015 Belmont Stakes, the win was the fourth attempt at a Triple Crown for Baffert, who at age 62 became the second-oldest trainer to win a Triple Crown.
Between 1997 and 1999 he won the Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer three years running and was voted the 1997 Big Sport of Turfdom Award.
Baffert has trained horses that won twelve American Classic Races, fourteen Breeders' Cup races, and three Dubai World Cups. In 2010 Baffert scored a first when Misremembered, a horse he bred, owned by his wife Jill and their friend George Jacobs, won the Santa Anita Handicap, marking Baffert's first Grade I win as a breeder. He also has seven wins in the Santa Anita Derby, eight in the Haskell Invitational Handicap, and thirteen wins in the Del Mar Futurity, a race he won seven straight times from 1996 to 2002, when run as a Grade II event. He also won the race in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014, and 2016 when run as a Grade I event. He has won the Kentucky Oaks three times: first in 1999 with Silverbulletday, who was later selected for the Hall of Fame, then with Plum Pretty in 2011 and lastly with Abel Tasman in 2017.
Baffert has trained for numerous owners including The Thoroughbred Corporation (Prince Ahmed bin Salman), Golden Eagle Farm (John C. Mabee), the late Bob Lewis and his wife Beverly, Robert and Janice McNair, for whom he trained champions Chilukki and five-time Grade I winner Congaree, and his good friend Mike Pegram, for whom he has trained champions Real Quiet, Silverbulletday, Captain Steve, Midnight Lute, and Lookin At Lucky. In 2014, Baffert teamed with owner Kaleem Shah to win his first Breeders' Cup Classic with Bayern. Most recently, Baffert has trained horses for Zayat Stables, including Pioneerof The Nile, Zensational, Bodemeister, Paynter, and American Pharoah,and for Juddmonte Farms, most notably Arrogate.
Baffert was inducted into Lone Star Park's Hall of Fame in 2007, and in 2009, he was nominated and inducted to the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame. Baffert was elected alongside one of the best fillies he trained, Silverbulletday. Point Given was nominated in 2009, but elected and inducted in 2010.
Baffert has five children; four from his first marriage to wife Sherry: Taylor, Canyon, Forest, and Savannah. He married his second wife, Jill, a former television reporter based in Louisville, in 2002. They had a son in 2004 they named Bode, after skier Bode Miller. Baffert, and his family reside in California.
He appeared in an episode of the TV show Take Home Chef.
He also is a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
Bob survived a heart attack in late March 2012 while in Dubai for a world-class race at Meydan.
Following the 2015 Belmont win, Baffert outlined several charities that he and his wife Jill supported. He had been paid $200,000 to allow The Burger King to stand behind him in the grandstand during the televised broadcast of the Belmont, after having turned down $150,000 to allow the mascot to appear with him at the Preakness. At the post-Belmont press conference, Baffert announced he and his wife would be making substantial donations of $50,000 each to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, the California Retirement Management Account (CARMA), and Old Friends Equine, all programs for retired race horses; and to the Permanently Disabled Jockey's Fund in memory of a Quarter Horse Jockey named Robert Z. "Bobby" Adair. Adair was a friend of Baffert's and an inductee into the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame, who died on Preakness Day, May 16, 2015 at the age of 71. Baffert had dedicated American Pharoah's win to Bobby.✝ - won Triple Crown.