ELMONT, NY - JUNE 06:  Triple Crown and Belmont Stakes contender Justify is walked in his barn by trainer Bob Baffert after arriving  prior to the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 6, 2018 in Elmont, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Bob Baffert: The Triple Crown legend
03:55 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

He’s one of horse racing’s most celebrated trainers, but Bob Baffert had to defy his mother to reach the summit of the sport.

From humble beginnings growing up on a cattle ranch in Nogales, Arizona on the border with Mexico, the 66-year-old has saddled five Kentucky Derby winners and two Triple Crown champions in American Pharaoh and Justify in his illustrious career.

It’s earned him a place in the Hall of Fame, and made Baffert third on the all-time list of best trainers with more than $288 million in earnings, according to Equibase.

“I wanted to be a horse trainer against my mother’s will,” he told Aly Vance for CNN’s Winning Post ahead of this year’s Derby at Churchill Downs. “She said, ‘how can you make living being a horse trainer in Arizona?’

“I just love being around horses. Once it gets in your blood, the passion, you can’t get out.”

As a youngster, Baffert would help his father show their cattle at shows in the region before they dabbled at training quarter horses – the American breed famous for their sprinting prowess – to race at various local tracks.

When he was old enough, Baffert learned how to ride and earned cash racing on dusty circuits around Nogales. Eventually, though, he realized his dream of becoming a full-time jockey wasn’t going to materialize.

“I was too big, I ate myself out of a job,” said Baffert, who has also trained seven Preakness Stakes winners and three Belmont Stakes champions.

READ: War of Will wins Preakness Stakes at Pimlico

READ: Country House wins Kentucky Derby as Maximum Security disqualifed

READ: How young Qatari sheik shook up the ‘sport of kings’

READ: Maximum Security owner challenges other horses

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 16: Trainer Bob Baffert walks Kentucky Derby winner Justify in the barn after the horse arrived at Pimlico Race Course for the upcoming Preakness Stakes on May 16, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Bob Baffert: Top tips for a Triple Crown win
01:14 - Source: CNN

‘Little fish, big pond’

Having promised his mother he would go to college, Baffert continued his education, but he gravitated back home soon after.

He trained horses for his father, but progress was slow. “I was really disgusted with it,” he says, referring to his development as a trainer.

Taking a year off, Baffert got a job as a teacher but that didn’t work out either so he took up an offer to train some horses for a friend.

“I decided to give it one more go,” he said. “I started winning and the next thing you know I’ve got five, 10, 15 horses and then I was going.”

In 1983, Baffert moved to California to train at the famous Los Alamitos quarter horse track near Los Angeles.

“I was very intimidated because I knew how tough it was,” he said. “I had 40 horses in Arizona and I took my best nine horses to L.A.