Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is missing his second consecutive Kentucky Derby as he is still serving a two-year suspension issued by Churchill Downs because of what happened with Medina Spirit in 2021. Baffert has tried to fight the suspension in court, but his efforts have been unsuccessful.
"I've just moved on," the 70-year-old Hall of Fame trainer told The Associated Press recently without elaborating.
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Who is Bob Baffert?
Baffert is a four-time recipient of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer (1997, 1998, 1999, 2015) and one of most well known trainers in horse racing history. His horses have registered a record number of Triple Crown race wins (16), including a record-tying six victories at the Kentucky Derby.
He earned his first Triple Crown -- meaning wins at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont -- with American Pharoah in 2015. Baffert achieved a second Triple Crown with Justify in 2018, the only two since 1978.
Why is he serving a two-year suspension?
Baffert's horse Medina Spirit was the winner of the 147th Kentucky Derby in 2021. However, Medina Spirit was later disqualified for testing positive for betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory steroid. That substance is legal in Kentucky, but the rules state it cannot be used on the day of the race. The following month,.
Medina Spirit died unexpectedly on Dec. 6, 2021 after a workout in Santa Anita Park in California. In a statement shortly after his death, Baffert said it was because of a heart attack -- which the necropsy said was likely what happened. There was only omeprazole and Lasix in his system, which were not suspicious as they were listed in the attending veterinarian's report.
Late in February of 2022, the, meaning none of the horses he trains were allowed to compete in races in the state. The commission also announced that Medina Spirit was officially disqualified as the 2021 Run For the Roses champion. Baffert was fined $7,500 and all of the purse money from the 2021 Kentucky Derby victory was forfeited.
Baffert went on to miss the full 2022 Triple Crown series as he also got banned for that year by Maryland and New York, which are the hosts for Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
In a press conference after Medina Spirit's drug tests were revealed, Churchill Downs track president Mike Anderson said the decision was because of Baffert's "refusal to take responsibility for repeat violations."
Failed attempts at overturning suspension
On March 1, 2022, headlines were made after Baffert sued Churchill Downs and track leadership in federal court in an attempt to overturn his two-year suspension, arguing that Churchill Downs did not give him notice or an explanation of the suspension.
"They've hurt my reputation," Baffert said during a testimony in U.S. District Court this past February. "My horses should've made much more money. I didn't run for 90 days, and I had to let people go."
A federal judge ultimately denied Baffert's request to lift his two-year suspension. Churchill Downs cited nine failed tests by Baffert-trained horses from 2016 to 2020, including 2020 Kentucky Oaks third-place finisher Gamine.
Baffert can still technically train horses, but in order for horses to compete at Churchill Downs, suspended trainers were required to transfer horses to non-suspended trainers by Feb. 28.
Although he is not allowed to train horses for the Kentucky Derby, he is eligible to run horses at the Preakness and Belmont Stakes this year.
The New York Times reported in April that Baffert had just returned home from visiting 2-year-old in in Ocala, Fla., where Zedan -- the Saudi venture capitalist who owned Medina Spirit -- recently spent $2 million for a colt that could be one of the competitors for the 2024 Kentucky Derby.