- Trainer Bob Baffert has completed his 90 day suspension for a medication violation found in a post race test of 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit.
- Baffert fought the case with Kentucky regulators and in court but was ultimately unsuccessful at preventing the suspension.
- Baffert still faces bans that will prevent him from racing in New York or at Churchill Downs owned tracks.
Bob Baffert has done his time–at least in California. The Hall of Fame trainer completed his 90 day suspension yesterday and was at Santa Anita and back at work today. He was suspended following a long legal and regulatory fight due to a failed postrace drug test by 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit. His challenged reached the Kentucky Court of Appeals, but they did not issue an emergency injunction that would have prevented the suspension from starting. The suspension began on April 4.
There are still some limitations on Baffert. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) has banned him from racing at their tracks through January 25, 2023. The NYRA tracks are Belmont Park, Aqueduct and–most significantly–Saratoga Race Course. The Saratoga meet is set to get underway on July 14 and is among the most lucrative in the sport. He’s also banned from entering horses at Churchill Downs, Inc. owned tracks through the 2023 Kentucky Derby. It’s unclear whether that means he’ll not be able to *enter* the 2023 Kentucky Derby, but don’t be surprised to see another trainer like Tim Yakteen enter Baffert’s top three year olds.
During his suspension, Sean McCarthy was the primary trainer in charge of Baffert’s horses. He also utilized the expertise of Baffert’s longtime assistant, Jimmy Barnes. Yakteen took responsibility for several additional horses from Baffert’s stable. The Daily Racing Form reviewed their performance during Baffert’s absence:
Yakteen, 57, won two races with horses transferred from Baffert earlier this year – Taiba in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 8, and Armagnac, a maiden race winner on May 8 who was later seventh in the Preakness Stakes on May 21 at Pimlico.
Taiba and Messier, another former Baffert-trained runner, were 12th and 15th in the Kentucky Derby for Yakteen.
McCarthy, 59, won eight races with horses that had previously started for Baffert, notably three graded stakes winners at Santa Anita in June – Hopper in the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes for 3-year-olds, Private Mission in the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes for fillies and mares, and Under the Stars in the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.
Baffert was pleased with the effort of both ‘fill in’ trainers:
“They did a good job. I’m proud of them. They kept it together.”
On Sunday, it was business as usual for Baffert. His primary focus now is getting his stabled horses ready for the Del Mar summer season which begins on July 22. Baffert has been taking horses to Del Mar for more than 25 years. Baffert quipped to the media following his activities:
“I’m just trying to get caught up. It feels like the first day of school.”
Baffert said that he ‘checked out’ of the sport during his suspension, though he kept busy going to sales:
“I haven’t looked at a condition book or anything. I didn’t watch all the races.”
“It was better for me to check out. I was going to sales, and that kept me busy.”
Baffert made clear that he’s not ready to retire and even with the restrictions in New York and at Churchill Downs, he’s looking forward to getting back to a somewhat normal routine.