The Breeders’ Cup announced on Saturday that it has begun a review process to determine whether Bob Baffert – the all-time leading Breeders’ Cup trainer by money won – will be allowed to participate in this year’s world championships at Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, Calif., on Nov. 5-6.
On June 2, Baffert was banned from participation at tracks owned by Churchill Downs for two years after Zedan Racing Stables Inc.’s Medina Spirit failed a drug test following his first-place finish in this year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
The positive test for the corticosteroid betamethasone on May 1 was Baffert’s fifth failed drug test in 365 days, beginning with two lidocaine positives for Charlatan and Gamine at Oaklawn Park on May 2, 2020 – Charlatan’s bad test coming in the G1 Arkansas Derby and eventual filly and mare sprint champion Gamine testing positive after an allowance win. Both Charlatan and Gamine were disqualified from their victories by Oaklawn stewards, but the Arkansas Racing Commission reinstated the wins, overturned a 15-day suspension of the trainer and fined him $10,000.
Baffert was fined $2,500 by California Horse Racing Board stewards after Merneith tested positive for dextromethorphan at Del Mar in July 2020 and then Gamine tested positive for a second time – this time for betamethasone – after a third-place finish in the G1 Kentucky Oaks on Sept. 4, 2020. She was disqualified and Baffert was fined $1,500.
“The Breeders’ Cup Board has commenced a review process as to whether Bob Baffert will be permitted to participate in this year’s Breeders’ Cup world championships,” a statement from the Breeders’ Cup said. “The process will include an opportunity for Mr. Baffert to present his case and will conclude in advance of pre-entry for the 2021 world championships.”
Baffert’s five failed tests do not violate the Breeders’ Cup Convicted Trainers Rule that disqualifies a trainer from participation if he or she has been sanctioned in the previous 12 months for a Class 1 violation carrying Category A or B penalties or a Class 2 violation carrying a Category A penalty (classifications are determined by the Association of Racing Commissioners International). Lidocaine is a Class 2 drug with Category B penalty. Dextromethoropan is Class 4/Category B. Betamethasone is Class 4/Category C.
There is a provision in Breeders’ Cup Limited’s Horsemen’s Guide for pre-entry procedures stating that the organization reserves the right to refuse pre-entry or entry of any horse, in “BCL’s sole discretion, for any reason, including, but not limited to, situations where any connection (e.g., owner, trainer, jockey) of such horse has engaged or may have engaged in conduct, or become the subject of a regulatory or law enforcement inquiry or action alleging conduct that is unlawful, unethical or which may otherwise compromise the integrity or reputation of the Breeders’ Cup world championships.”
Baffert is second to fellow Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas in all-time Breeders’ Cup wins, with 17 (three fewer than Lukas), but his $35,985,000 in earnings leads all trainers by more than $9 million, according to statistics compiled by Breeders’ Cup.
Baffert has a number of leading contenders for this year’s Breeders’ Cup races, including G1 Del Mar Futurity winner Pinehurst, whose ownership includes the Stonestreet Stables of newly elected Breeders’ Cup chair Barbara Banke.
If Baffert does participate in the Breeders’ Cup and Pinehurst finishes in the top four in the G1 Juvenile, the horse will not be eligible for any qualifying points to the 2022 Kentucky Derby (10-4-2-1 points are earmarked for the top four finishers). Churchill Downs Inc. recently announced that horses will not earn points in official Derby qualifying races if they are in the care of a trainer who has been suspended from participation at Churchill Downs. Baffert is the only known trainer suspended by Churchill Downs Inc., which exercised its private property rights when it announced the exclusion..
Baffert is also facing a possible suspension by the New York Racing Association, which has scheduled a Sept. 27 hearing in front of a hearing officer to consider NYRA’s statement of charges against the trainer that incorporate the multiple violations and Baffert’s response to them.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has yet to conduct a hearing on the Medina Spirit positive test.
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