J. Michael Baird, who won his 1,000th race as a trainer last September and is among the leaders in the standings this year at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort, has maintained his passion for thoroughbred breeding and racing through times of great change in the industry.

“I could be one of the people on earth who loves their job the most,” said Baird, a member of the most recognized family in the history of Mountaineer. “But if I could figure out a way to just raise babies, I’d never leave our farm.”

The family farm is located in Hancock County, W.V., not far from the racetrack. It is the Northern Panhandle’s only thoroughbred breeding farm, and Baird is the only person to stand a stallion west of Jefferson County in the state’s Eastern Panhandle.

He’s also now the only member of the Baird family training horses at Mountaineer. His uncle, Dale, before he died in 2007, was the all-time leading trainer in the United States by wins with 9,445, most of them at Mountaineer. His cousin, Bart, stopped training in 2021. And his father, John, retired last November with 2,127 career victories, most of them locally.

John Baird, who said he “really likes” retirement, is still an owner and enjoys coming to the track to check on things and observe during training hours. He also participates on the breeding side and regularly offers advice and assistance, his son said.

Mike Baird has about 70 horses, which includes up to 14 broodmares, nine foals, 10 yearlings and 10 2-year-olds that have not yet raced. He regularly goes back and forth between Mountaineer and the farm.

“I run the whole thing myself,” he said. “Fortunately, we’re doing well. My wife, Holly, is a physical therapist but she is completely involved in helping with the horse operation. She even came to Mountaineer and did some work to brighten up the barn.”

Baird in the mid-2000s participated in the “raiser” program, which allowed out-of-state yearlings who spent 12 months in West Virginia to earn breed development funds. It was designed to encourage breeding in the Northern Panhandle.

“Dale gave me a lot of advice over the years,” Baird said. “At that time, he said, ‘If I were your age, I’d really get involved with this program.’ I did get very involved and used it to start my own breeding operation.”

Baird, who is a student of pedigrees, first stood the late stallion Machen, who last year was 12th on the West Virginia list sires by earnings in 2022. He replaced him with Cal Nation in 2020, and the stallion’s West Virginia progeny are 2-year-olds this year. Access to the stallion is greatly limited to the Baird operation.

Among his favorites thus far is Connies Kid, a colt by Cal Nation out of the mare Cobra Connie, who was one-for-one before she retired. Cobra Connie is out of Baird’s multiple stakes winner Cobra Lady, who won stakes at Mountaineer and in Ohio.

Another one is a 2-year-old bred by Michelle Helms and owned by trainer Eddie Clouston named Baby Dog, a colt by Cal Nation out of Bluemoonofsaratoga, a mare who was owned by Helms and trained by Clouston.

Baby Dog hasn’t raced yet but is quite popular and has been the subject of some local racetrack social media videos. Clouston named him for West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s English bulldog Babydog, who often appears with him at press conferences and has her own social media account.

Baird, who recalled one evening—and early morning—last winter when he helped three mares foal, noted there are five or six other non-breeding thoroughbred farms in Hancock County. He said those horse farms, the racing program at Mountaineer and the casino at the facility are all linked to support the local community and small businesses, in agriculture and beyond.

“This is what I’ll be doing whenever I finish,” Baird said. “My wife and I had plans of going south when we get older, but we’ll see. It’s in my blood. I enjoy it too much.”

For more information, contact Tom LaMarra at 859-492-8365 or at [email protected]