Will Bob Baffert Come Back For The Next Kentucky Derby?
One of the big stories heading into the Kentucky Derby earlier this year was the absence of Bob Baffert-trained runners, as the Hall of Famer served a ban after the 2021 winner, Medina Spirit, failed a post-race drug test.
Once again, that narrative will remain at the start of 2023, as Baffert will again be unable to enter horses to the world-famous race as he serves the second of his two-year ban at Churchill Downs. But what could that mean for horses trained in his barn, and why was the ban invoked?
Why Was Baffert Banned?
The Baffert ban centers around the Kentucky Derby in 2021, which Medina Spirit won. The three-year-old crossed the line first but was subsequently found to have tested positive for betamethasone. It is worth mentioning that the drug is used in many cases for legal treatment, but essentially, it is banned on race day in Kentucky.
The victory was significant for Baffert, as it saw him become the standout, most successful trainer in Kentucky Derby history with seven victories. According to the free horse racing performances by TwinSpires, no other trainers have a better record than Baffert.
However, the decision was made by Churchill Downs after the positive case they would be banning Baffert-trained runners from the next two renewals, and the decision as to whether Medina Spirit would be disqualified from the race would be made by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC).
How Long Was Baffert Banned For?
The Baffert saga had plagued horse racing in the United States throughout 2021, as the governing bodies were slow to take any severe punishment on the Hall of Famer. However, in February, the KHRC finally disqualified Medina Spirit from the 2021 edition of the Kentucky Derby, making Mandaloun the winner. The decision also revealed that Baffert had been banned for 90 days and was imposed with a $7,500 fine.
Both seemed very lenient, given that Churchill Downs had earlier suspended Baffert from making entries to the opening Triple Crown race for both the 2022 and 2023 editions. However, that could change before the 2023 edition of the race, as Baffert is still fighting the decision made in federal court. But, it looks difficult to see that decision being reversed, given that he unsuccessfully attempted to appeal the 90-day ban imposed by the KHRC.
What Happens To Baffert’s Horses?
One of the biggest questions that racing fans were asking before the main prep races for the Kentucky Derby was what would happen to Baffert’s talented crop of three-year-olds should they not be able to run in the Triple Crown race. We soon had our answer, as the leading contenders in the yard moved yards, which enabled them to pick up qualifying points to earn their entry into the Kentucky Derby.
Messier and Taiba were the first to move, with both moving to Tim Yakteen, who was previously an assistant trainer at Baffert’s yard. However, neither made much of an impression in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, as they finished well behind eventual winner Rich Strike. Doppelganger and Blackadder were also moved, with the latter moving to Rodolphe Brisset. However, neither eventually managed to earn enough points to line up in the Kentucky Derby.
Regarding what that means for the 2023 Kentucky Derby, we will likely see the same thing should Baffert’s ban not be overturned. Therefore, while his name isn’t on the connections, much of the hard work in the build-up for the Triple Crown race at Churchill Downs next year would have been done by the Hall of Famer. But fans of Baffert will be hoping for better results in 2023.