The Breeders' Cup Welcomes Baffert Despite His Suspension

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Horse Racing|Baffert, Barred from Churchill Downs, Is Embraced by the Breeders’ Cup

ON equine racing

The Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has longstanding relationships with galore members of the Breeders’ Cup board.

Medina Spirit worked retired  Tuesday astatine  Del Mar Race Track, the tract  of the Breeders’ Cup.
Credit...Ray Acevedo/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Joe Drape

Nov. 4, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ET

The trainer Bob Baffert was barred from Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby aft Medina Spirit failed a cause trial successful May soon aft winning the 147th moving of America’s top equine race. The New York Racing Association has renewed its efforts to prohibition him from its circuit.

So however is Baffert capable to tally 8 horses for millions of dollars successful purse wealth connected Friday and Saturday successful the Breeders’ Cup World Championships astatine the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club successful Southern California?

The trainer has friends successful precocious places: connected the Breeders’ Cup board, to beryllium precise.

Baffert volition saddle horses for six of those committee members astatine Del Mar. Six much either ain horses successful Baffert’s unchangeable oregon basal stallions that helium erstwhile trained.

So it was hardly a surprise, aft a reappraisal and a committee ballot past month, that they decided that Baffert could vie successful the Breeders’ Cup with the horses immoderate of them own.

What did that reappraisal entail? Did immoderate committee members with fiscal ties to Baffert — each but 2 of the 14 — recuse themselves from deciding his fate?

You are not allowed to know.

Drew Fleming, the Breeders’ Cup president and main executive, declined to reply elaborate questions from The New York Times, arsenic did idiosyncratic committee members.

Instead the enactment enactment Baffert connected what amounts to the “double concealed probation” Dean Wormer handed down to the Delta fraternity successful the movie “Animal House.”

Baffert’s horses, the enactment said, volition beryllium tested much often than his competitors’. They volition person other eyes surveilling them. And if 1 of them tests affirmative for anything, the Breeders’ Cup committee members volition driblet the hammer connected Baffert.

They promise.

How did equine racing get here? Again?

Start with a civilization of doping that has been pervasive for decades, past propulsion successful a deficiency of infrastructure (and will) to marque and enforce rules. Finally, adhd decision-making driven by greed alternatively than interest for the wellness and information of the horses, the riders and the public.

Outside the Triple Crown events, equine racing makes nationalist headlines lone erstwhile calamity and ungraded are involved. There has been a batch of some precocious — 30 dormant horses successful a play astatine Santa Anita Park and federal indictments accusing much than 2 twelve trainers and veterinarians from Florida to New York of doping their animals.

By the way, each but a fewer of them person pleaded guilty.

On Saturday, Medina Spirit volition vie successful the $6 cardinal Breeders’ Cup Classic, the marquee and last contention of the two-day festival. Whether helium wins oregon loses, horseplayers and casual sports fans alike volition wonderment if helium ran cause free.

The colt crossed the decorativeness enactment archetypal successful the Derby connected May 1, lone to flunk a post-race trial for a corticosteroid that is prohibited connected contention day. That effect has since been contested successful authorities and national courts and volition beryllium for possibly years to come.

To recognize wherefore Medina Spirit volition beryllium allowed to run, you request to recognize Baffert’s outsize relation successful the races that proceed the Classic.


Credit...Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

In the $2 cardinal Juvenile, the contention that often produces the adjacent year’s Kentucky Derby favorites, determination volition beryllium 2 colts trained by Baffert, Pinehurst and Barossa, who are co-owned by 3 Breeders’ Cup committee members, including Barbara Banke, the board’s president and the proprietor of Jackson Family Wines. Pinehurst was bred by a 4th committee member, Fred W. Hertrich III.

The $1 cardinal Dirt Mile, $1 cardinal Filly & Mare Sprint and $2 cardinal Distaff besides diagnostic horses owned by committee members and trained by Baffert. At involvement is the purse wealth — 60 percent goes to the victor — positive the imaginable for tens of millions of dollars much for owners of Breeders’ Cup-winning horses that participate the breeding industry.

The colts tin perchance go stallions. The offspring of fast, pedigreed mares are much costly astatine the thoroughbred auctions.

Baffert has demonstrated that helium adds worth to horses.

Counting Medina Spirit’s victory, Baffert has won a grounds 7 Derbys, surpassing a grounds acceptable by Ben Jones. He trained the 2 astir caller Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018), some of whom basal astatine Coolmore Stud, which is besides represented connected the Breeders’ Cup board.

Baffert is simply a subordinate of the sport’s Hall of Fame and is presently seventh successful the nationalist grooming standings. He trained horses that person failed 30 cause tests — including 5 successful a 13-month span, Medina Spirit among them.

Last year, the athletics acknowledged that it had a cause occupation and backed national authorities to woody with it.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is expected to instrumentality effect adjacent summer. It calls for a committee overseen by the Federal Trade Commission to constitute rules and penalties to beryllium enforced by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

The Breeders’ Cup and its committee members (and Baffert employers) were large proponents of drug-free racing. But they seemingly decided it made much consciousness to get pushed, alternatively than leap connected their own, into a caller era.

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