Bob Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby six times, but the Hall of Fame trainer won’t get a chance at No. 7 on Saturday because he’s banned from Churchill Downs until mid-2023. That doesn’t mean his training days are ending any time soon.
In an interview with ESPN, Baffert said he has no plans to retire and vowed to clear his name and Medina Spirit’s. The Baffert-trained horse won the 2021 Kentucky Derby, but his victory was vacated because he tested positive for an anti-inflammatory medication after the race. Baffert was subsequently banned from Churchill Downs for two years, a ruling he has tried and failed to overturn in federal court several times.
Betamethasone, the Class C drug Medina Spirit tested positive for, is permitted in Kentucky. However, it’s supposed to clear the horse’s system at least 14 days before they race.
“Who would’ve thought an ointment — an ointment — took down the Kentucky Derby winner,” Baffert said, per ESPN. “That’s just not right. And that’s something that we’re going to, you know, we’re gonna fight vigorously to save that horse’s Kentucky Derby, because he … deserved the win.”
Baffert told ESPN the ointment applied to Medina Spirit had “zero impact” on his performance, making it his mission to “save the legacy” of the horse.
“It killed me when they made a big deal taking [Medina Spirit’s] name off, in the paddock,” Baffert said. “And they took my signs down at the barn. It’s tough to see that, but you know what, at the end of the day, when the facts come out … it tells a different story. That day will come.”
Barring a reversal of the 90-day suspension the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission gave Baffert on April 4, the 69-year-old cannot return to racing until July 2. That means he’ll be unable to compete in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes — the two other Triple Crown races — set for May 21 and June 11, respectively.
While Baffert won’t be attending the 2022 Kentucky Derby, he told ESPN he’ll be watching to root for a couple of his old horses, Messier and Taiba. Both horses are currently being trained by former Baffert assistant Tim Yakteen.