Bob Baffert and his owners have elected not to transfer any of their promising 3-year-olds to other trainers in order to make them eligible for this year’s Kentucky Derby. So, it’s not just Baffert who will be missing from the most well-known horse race in the world, there also won’t be any Baffert horses.
“Nobody is going to transfer their horses,” Baffert told The Times. “I just remain focused on training my horses and competing in the big races.”
Baffert is in the midst of a two-year ban, that was inexplicably extended at least a year despite no rules violations. Churchill Down Inc. implemented the penalty after Medina Spirit tested positive for a legal medication but not legal on race day in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. The horse was subsequently disqualified as the winner of the race.
So, barring an unexpected change of heart by Churchill Downs, Baffert will not be in this year’s Derby.
“It’s out of my hands, I just want what’s best for the game,” Baffert said.
The last two years, Baffert has transferred his best horses to former assistant Tim Yakteen. But not this year.
Baffert nominated 18 horses for the Triple Crown and all of them will be eligible to run in the other two legs of the Triple Crown, the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The non-moves show the intensity of the loyalty that his owners have for the hall of fame trainer.
His two best prospects are believed to be Nysos, undefeated in two starts, and Muth, winner of the American Pharoah and San Vicente Stakes.
Nysos runs this Saturday in the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita and Muth is being pointed to the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. This Saturday, Wynstock, owned by Los Alamitos executives Dr. Ed Allred and Jack Liebeau, will run in the Southwest Stakes, also at Oaklawn. Baffert also has Coach Prime and Wine Me Up, but it’s unclear what their next race will be.
There was the thought that when Baffert announced last week that he was dropping all litigation against Churchill Downs Inc. that it could thaw the freeze that occurred between the two parties.
“I have instructed my attorneys to dismiss the appeal related to the disqualification of Medina Spirit in the 2021 Kentucky Derby,” Baffert said. “Zedan Racing owner, Amr Zedan, and I have decided that it is best to positively focus on the present and future that our great sport offers. We thank the KHRC and Churchill Downs for listening and considering our point of view and we are grateful for the changes and clarity that HISA brings to our sport.”
However, CDI responded saying that the dismissal doesn’t change a thing. And nothing in the subsequent week seems to have changed that.
This saga started in May 2021, a week after Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby. However, he tested positive for betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory not in the class of drugs that is considered a performance enhancer other than if a horse feels better they may run better. Baffert’s attorneys contended that Medina Spirit was administered the medication as an ointment that was placed on his hind quarter to treat a rash. They also argued that the rules prohibiting betamethasone’s use on race day was only if it was administered intra-articularly.
Baffert started with a fiery impromptu news conference outside his barn at Churchill Downs and then went on a media blitz defending his actions and the innocence of his colt. He later told The Times that “If I had to do anything different, I wouldn’t have had a press conference. But it was out there and [the media] was waiting. … I was trying to get ahead of it. I was convinced after talking to my veterinarians, that [the positive] was impossible. Then it dawned on them 48 hours later, be careful with the [ointment] Otomax.”
About a month after the incident, CDI suspended Baffert from all its tracks for two years with the proviso that the penalty would be reviewed at that time. The Churchill penalty was much more severe than that of the regulatory agency, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, that disqualified the colt. Baffert was given a 90-day suspension and a fine, which he served the following year mostly in April, May and June.
Under the rules of the CDI suspension, no Baffert horse could accumulate Derby qualifying points, which are necessary to make the field of 20 on the first Saturday in May. The two years were filled with lawsuits, with Baffert being unsuccessful in being reinstated by Churchill Downs or Medina Spirit’s win being restored.
The two years were up in July of last year, at which time CDI added at least another year to the suspension despite the fact Baffert had no positive medication or drug tests during that time.
“A trainer who is unwilling to accept responsibility for multiple drug test failures in our highest-profile races cannot be trusted to avoid future misconduct,” CDI said in a statement. “Mr. Baffert will remain suspended from entering horses at all racetracks owned by CDI through 2024. After such time, we will re-evaluate his status.”
Though he won’t be at the Derby, Baffert had a big win on Saturday when he won the $3-million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park with National Treasure, winner of last year’s Preakness Stakes. Baffert said he’s waiting until the horse gets back to Santa Anita, likely on Tuesday, before deciding his next race.