Kentucky Derby 2022: Why Isn’t Bob Baffert at this year’s Derby

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The 2022 Kentucky Derby takes place this Saturday, May 7 on NBC, PeacockNBCSports.com, and the NBC Sports app. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has a serious contender in Epicenter (7-2), and Zandon, trained by Chad Brown, opened as the early favorite at 3-1.

But at this year’s Derby one of the most recognizable and successful faces of the sport won’t be in the field. Bob Baffert, who has won a record-tying six Kentucky Derbies, is suspended for both the 2022 and 2023 runnings of the race. This suspension, handed down by Churchill Downs, comes as a result of Baffert’s trainee, Medina Spirit, failing a drug test after the 2021 race. See below to find additional information on why Baffert won’t be at the 2022 Kentucky Derby and what it means.

RELATED: When is the 2022 Kentucky Derby? Date, start time, distance, race coverage info

What happened at the 2021 Kentucky Derby?

On May 1, 2021, Medina Spirit crossed the finish line at Churchill Downs, winning the Run for the Roses with a time of 2:01:02. The win would have been the seventh Derby victory for Bob Baffert, and would have broken his tie with Ben Jones for the all-time Derby record as a trainer. However, things changed just a week later after Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone. The drug is a legal treatment for horses and is often used as a therapeutic anti-inflammatory but is specifically prohibited in Kentucky on race day.

What punishments did Bob Baffert receive?

On February 21, 2022 – nine months after the Derby – the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) Board of Stewards officially disqualified Medina Spirit from the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs recognized Mandaloun, who initially crossed the line second, as the winner of the 147th Kentucky Derby. Additionally, Bob Baffert received a 90-day suspension and a $7,500 fine from the KHRC.

Churchill Downs had issued their own suspension of Baffert, banning him from the next two runnings of the Kentucky Derby (2022 and 2023) and announced that no Kentucky Derby qualifying points will be awarded to horses that he trains (the points will simply be vacated). Baffert is the former trainer of two horses in this year’s Derby field, Taiba and Messier. Both horses are now trained by Tim Yakteen, who is a former assistant of Baffert’s

Baffert filed for a motion of emergency relief from the 90-day suspension but the Kentucky Court of Appeals rejected the motion in April 2022 and the suspension will be honored in all 38 racing states. In regard to the two-year Kentucky Derby ban, Baffert has filed a lawsuit against Churchill Downs and will attempt to fight that battle in federal court.

When can Bob Baffert return to racing?

Bob Baffert’s 90-day suspension officially started on April 4 and will run through early July 2022, meaning he will miss the entire Triple Crown series, including the Preakness on May 21, and Belmont Stakes on June 11. The specific suspension from Churchill Downs applies to both the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derbies.

Why are Bob Baffert’s suspensions so significant?

KHRC specified in their ruling that Medina Spirit’s positive test was Baffert’s fourth medication violation in the span of 365 days, which led to the 90-day penalty. Otherwise, betamethasone is considered a class C drug, and carries a suspension of 0-10 days.

In regards to the two-year suspension, Churchill Downs also weighed Baffert’s previous transgressions as a significant factor. Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said in a statement: “Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby. Given these repeated failures over the last year, including the increasingly extraordinary explanations, we firmly believe that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our duty and responsibility.”

RELATED: What to know about the 2022 Kentucky Derby

Watch the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7 from 12 to 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network and from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Full coverage is also available on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app, and Peacock.

Flightline, Pletcher, Godolphin lead way at Eclipse Awards

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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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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.