Bob Baffert’s full statement on Medina Spirit

Pat McDonogh / Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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Editor’s note: Bob Baffert issued this statement exclusively to NBC Sports ahead of the 146th running of the Preakness Stakes. The full statement is below.

As Medina Spirit prepares to run in the Preakness Stakes today, I want to keep the focus on this amazing equine athlete and not me, which is the primary reason I will not personally be in attendance. I do not want to serve as a distraction to what has always been of paramount importance – the joy of this great sport and the horses that make it possible.

As I have stated from the beginning, there was never any attempt to game or cheat the system and Medina Spirit earned his Kentucky Derby win. While the presence of 21 picograms of an allowable therapeutic medication has yet to be confirmed by the split sample analysis, it would have nothing to do with Medina Spirit’s hard earned and deserved win. That win was the result of the horse’s tremendous heart and nothing else.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, I acknowledge that I am not perfect and I could have better handled the initial announcement of this news. Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby win was so personally meaningful to me, and I had such a wonderful experience on May 1 at Churchill Downs, that when I got the news of the test results, it truly was the biggest gut punch I had ever received and I was devastated. That, coupled with the fact that I always try to be accommodating and transparent with the media, led to an emotional press conference on May 9 in which I said some things that have been perceived as hurtful to some in the industry. For that I am truly sorry. I have devoted my life’s work to this great sport and I owe it, and those who make it possible, nothing but an eternal debt of gratitude.

For those who want an explanation for what transpired with Medina Spirit, I have tried to be open and transparent from the beginning. Our investigation is continuing and I don’t have definitive answers at this point. What I do know is that neither my barn, nor my veterinarians, directly treated Medina Spirit with the anti-inflammatory medication betamethasone. Even though it is allowable, it is just not something we have ever used with this horse. The only possible explanation that we have uncovered to date – and I emphasize the word possible – is that betamethasone is an ingredient in a topical ointment that was being applied to Medina Spirit to treat a dermatitis skin condition he developed after the Santa Anita Derby.

I have been deeply saddened to see this case portrayed as a “doping” scandal or betamethasone labeled as a “banned” substance. Neither is remotely true. Betamethasone is an allowable and commonly used medication in horse racing. Further, 21 picograms would have zero pharmacology in a horse. All I ask is that everyone not rush to judgment and allow all of the facts, evidence and science to come to light.

Lastly, while this has been extremely hard and emotionally draining on me and my family, today is not about Bob Baffert. Instead it is about Medina Spirit and all of the other equine athletes in our tremendous sport. I hope that everyone will direct their attention to them and give them the love and respect they so richly deserve.

Flightline, Pletcher, Godolphin lead way at Eclipse Awards

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Pat McDonogh/USA TODAY NETWORK
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PALM BEACH, Fla. — Flightline ran away in all six of his races, and ran away with top honors at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night.

And trainer Todd Pletcher, for the first time in nearly a decade, received the sport’s top prize as well.

Flightline – the now-retired winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic to cap an unbeaten six-race career – won Horse of the Year as well as the Eclipse as top Older Dirt Male. It was no surprise that Flightline took home both awards, and he’s now standing stud.

“We’ll hope that his future is as bright as his past,” co-owner Kosta Hronis said.

Godolphin was also a double winner, sweeping the Eclipses as top owner and top breeder for the second consecutive year. It was also the third consecutive top-owner Eclipse for Godolphin.

“This is truly a golden era for Godolphin racing,” said Michael Banahan, the stable’s director of bloodstock. “And these awards and accolades recognize how special it is.”

It was Pletcher’s eighth Eclipse, extending his record for the most by any trainer, and his first since 2014. It was one of the few close races in the voting; Pletcher got 108 first-place votes, while four-time Eclipse winner Chad Brown got 95 and finished second.

“This really is not an individual award. This is a team award,” Pletcher said. “This is an award about the owners, and most importantly, the horses.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Eclipse as top jockey for the fourth time in the last five years; he tied Pat Day and Javier Castellano for third-most in history, behind only seven-time winner Jerry Bailey and five-time winner Laffit Pincay Jr.

Ortiz led all jockeys with more than $37 million in purses in 2022.

“Wow,” Ortiz said. “It’s been an amazing year for me.”

Forte won the Eclipse as 2-year-old male, and will enter this year’s Triple Crown season as one of the early favorites.

“We’re all in this game for a horse like Forte,” said Mike Repole, the horse’s co-owner along with Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola and Teresa Viola. “We’re all in this game to one day maybe own a 2-year-old that has a chance. It’s great to have the Kentucky Derby favorite. … Forte’s an incredible horse.”

Epicenter won the 3-year-old male Eclipse, after running second at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, then winning the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga over the summer.

Wonder Wheel was the winner as 2-year-old filly, while Nest won the Eclipse in the 3-year-old filly division. Malathaat was the Eclipse winner for older dirt female, Goodnight Olive for female sprinter and Regal Glory for female turf horse.

Elite Power was picked as the top male sprinter, Modern Games won the Eclipse for male turf horse, and Hewick was the Eclipse winner in the steeplechase division.

Jose Antonio Gomez won as top apprentice jockey.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

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Courier Journal/USA TODAY Sports
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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.