Has Bob Baffert been exhausting carried out by? | Matters: Santa Anita, Bob Baffert, Del Mar, NYRA, Churchill Downs, Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit


Bob Baffert: There was a nasty scent emanating from his barn for at the very least the final couple of years. Photograph: Susie Raisher/NYRA.com

After some of the memorable days within the historical past of Godolphin with an unprecedented transatlantic Basic double, few issues would give me higher pleasure than to mirror on the victories of Adayar at Epsom and Important High quality at Belmont Park.

In spite of everything, it takes one thing for a fantastic G1 1-2 from Charlie Appleby’s Dubai stars Althiqa and Summer season Romance to be pressured into second billing, however to win two such historic races inside about eight hours of one another in Britain and the U.S. was momentous certainly.

However,as fantastic as all this was, it could be remiss of me to disregard the elephant within the U.S. racing room – Bob Baffert and the upcoming DQ of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit now that the cut up pattern has additionally come again optimistic for the corticosteroid betamethasone.

Because of this, Baffert is at the moment banned from all New York’s fundamental tracks – no Belmont, Saratoga or Aqueduct – and, maybe much more damaging, some of the garlanded trainers within the historical past of the game won’t be able so as to add to his Kentucky Derby tally till 2024 on the earliest after he was banned from racing and coaching at Churchill Downs and any of the tracks it owns for 2 years.

After all, this will properly run and run, with a prolonged appeals process and due authorized course of nearly a certainty. There’s a precedent: In 1968, Dancer’s Picture beat the favorite Ahead Move at Churchill Downs earlier than post-race evaluation revealed traces of the banned substance phenylbutazone within the winner’s urine. It wasn’t till April 1972 that the courts had their ultimate say and m’realized associates formally ratified Ahead Move because the 1968 Derby winner.

Swingeing ban

Until Medina Spirit’s connections go mild into that good evening – and naturally preliminary indications recommend fairly the reverse, it is going to most likely be a while earlier than the Brad Cox-trained Mandaloun will get his belated roses.

Frankly, it offers me no pleasure by any means to ponder two years with out arguably probably the most recognisable face within the racing world being barred from U.S. racing’s fundamental phases, and, given the negligible quantities of a non-performance-enhancing drug concerned within the possible Kentucky Derby DQ, it’s a swingeing ban. 

Make no mistake, it might finish a legendary profession. He is ready to perform at his residence base in California, the place Santa Anita and Del Mar haven’t reciprocated the ban, however taking away the nation’s different fundamental circuits and its most historic races leaves the Baffert operation significantly denuded.

Fact is, Baffert might conceivably have had a degree in his emotional outburst about how these hint threshold ranges of in any other case authorized substances are so small they hardly matter. 

That mentioned, I’m bending over backwards to some extent, and Baffert’s self-justifying stance flies within the face of the prevailing temper amid the introduction of the Horse Racing Security and Integrity Act within the U.S.

So please be clear on this – I’m not saying he’s justified, however I’m saying this isn’t a few systemic try and cheat through the form of designer medication on the centre of the FBI investigation involving Most Safety’s disgraced coach Jason Servis and Florida-based Jorge Navarro.

Baffert’s transgression, although, minor because it appears as compared, comes within the wake of a doping scandal that has rocked the U.S. racing neighborhood to its very core. Understandably, the temper is zero-tolerance – after which right here comes Uncle Bob, caught on the fallacious aspect of the principles on racing’s largest event. It’s hardly what the game wants, and heaped upon actual proof of systemic dishonest elsewhere, it doesn’t precisely look good in picture phrases.

Take heed to Churchill Downs CEO Invoice Carstanjen. “Mr Baffert’s report of testing failures threatens public confidence in Thoroughbred racing and the status of the Kentucky Derby,” he mentioned. “Given these repeated failures over the past 12 months, together with the more and more extraordinary explanations, we firmly imagine that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our obligation and duty.”

But is Baffert being exhausting carried out by? Possibly, have been this a one-off. A authorized ointment used to deal with equine dermatitis (and arthritis) has lingered within the system too lengthy; an ‘overage’, in ungrammatical widespread parlance, for a generally used steroidal therapy banned on raceday for hint quantities.

Embarrassing record of offences

So Medina Spirit is out, and a Corridor of Fame coach’s status bites the Kentucky mud. This isn’t industrial-scale doping for corrupt benefit.

It’s, although, negligence from a coach who has admitted he must do higher. It’s also not something like an remoted prevalence, as a result of Baffert has an embarrassing record of different offences (and excuses) to be considered. 

There was a nasty scent emanating from Baffert’s barn for at the very least the final couple of years. Let’s recap:

  • In April 2018, Justify failed a drug check for scopolamine after profitable the Santa Anita Derby earlier than his Triple Crown; amid claims the check had been hushed up, information didn’t emerge till September that 12 months. The instances have been lastly dropped a 12 months later, with Justify and 6 different horses (together with G1-winning stablemate Hoppertunity) from varied barns discovered to have ingested adulterated feed, cross-contaminated through wild-growing jimson weed).
  • Arkansas Derby winner Charlatan and star filly Gamine have been initially disqualified after profitable at Oaklawn in Might 2020, testing optimistic for lidocaine, used to alleviate ache. Cross-contamination was blamed, the horses having been innocently uncovered to the substance through Baffert’s high assistant Jimmy Barnes utilizing a patch for human again ache. The DQs have been overturned in April this 12 months however Baffert was nonetheless fined $10,000.
  • Merneith examined optimistic for dextrorphan after ending second in a claimer at Del Mar in July 2020. Baffert appealed, saying contamination by cough syrup (Dayquil and Nyquil, to be particular) contained in an worker’s urine, mentioned worker having urinated into hay subsequently ingested by Merneith.
  • Gamine failed a medicine check after coming third in final 12 months’s Kentucky Oaks in September. This, like Medina Spirit, was anti-inflammatory medicine betamethasone.

Baffert might have railed wildly in opposition to ‘cancel tradition’ after information of Medina Spirit’s optimistic check broke – however, as they are saying, the optics don’t look good. 

Suppose Staff Sky within the besmirched world {of professional} biking. Whereas insisting they’ve by no means damaged any guidelines, all of the proof suggests they’ve pushed their ‘marginal good points’ envelope so far as it may be pushed. Equally, what appears clear is that Baffert – and he’s not alone on this – has a heavy reliance on the vet. That isn’t to indicate any wrongdoing – however nonetheless, for varied causes, a string of high-profile horses from his barn have examined optimistic. 

Certainly, over 4 a long time he has 30 medication positives to his title – typically minuscule quantities for substances completely authorized exterior raceday.

However, come on. Somebody’s not carried out the weeding, a groom has peed on the hay after taking NyQuil for his cough, an assistant coach has a nasty again, we forgot concerning the pores and skin ointment … would you actually need your million-dollar horse residing in a steady with this degree of negligence?

It merely isn’t adequate, as Baffert himself admitted finally 12 months’s Breeders’ Cup.

“I wish to have a optimistic affect on the game of horseracing,” he claimed in an announcement issued at Keeneland in November.

“Horses have been my life and I owe every little thing to them and the large sport by which I’ve been so lucky to be concerned. We will all the time do higher, and that’s my purpose. Given what has transpired this 12 months, I intend to do every little thing potential to make sure I obtain no additional medicine complaints.”

Briefly, even Baffert admitted sufficient is sufficient. He pledged to type it out. Maybe if he had carried out so we’d have been spared such a grubby, unlucky aftermath to one of many world’s showpiece contests. Even when it was all simply an harmless mistake.

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