Bob Baffert is back at the Preakness, his first Triple Crown race in 2 years


BALTIMORE — Bob Baffert is back at the Preakness for his first Triple Crown race in two years, returning from a suspension and looking for a record-breaking win with National Treasure.

The white-haired Hall of Fame trainer and one of the faces of horse racing was in a familiar spot outside the stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course. National Treasure is his first horse at the Preakness since 2021 with Medina Spirit, whose disqualification that year after winning the Kentucky Derby for failing a drug test caused Baffert to be barred from the sport’s best-known race since.

“We love it here: It’s very low key, and they treat you really well,” Baffert said. “It’s laid-back, chill, you’ve got a Derby winner, so everybody’s excited about the Derby winner. The Preakness is about coming here, having fun and they want to see the Derby winner run.”

Baffert was not eligible to enter a horse in the Preakness or Belmont last year because of a 90-day suspension in Kentucky that Maryland and New York honored.

“We just keep on moving forward,” Baffert said of his return from suspension. “We have other horses to worry about. A lot of it is noise, so you keep the noise out and continue working, stay busy.”

Staying busy could mean plenty of winning this weekend. National Treasure is Derby champion Mage’s top challenger in the Preakness, and Baffert has three favorites in other big races: filly Faiza in the $300,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, Havnameltdown in the $200,000 Chick Lang and Arabian Lion in the $100,000 Sir Barton.

“You bring ’em, you hope they win,” Baffert said. “It’s good to be involved in these races. Our whole operation is to play at the top level – to play at this level. All my clients like to play at this level so if you can come here and win those races, they’re exciting to win on the big days.”

The biggest race of the weekend is the $1.65 million Preakness, which Baffert and 19th-century trainer R. Wyndham Walden each have won seven times. Baffert said he has “never been one to think about records. I just like to enjoy it and have good horses and compete.”

Baffert has brought a lot of good horses to Baltimore during his career.

He did not come to Pimlico two years ago, leaving longtime assistant Jimmy Barnes to saddle Medina Spirit in an effort not to be a distraction after word emerged that the horse had tested positive at Churchill Downs for a medication that was not allowed on race day. Medina Spirit was allowed to run in the Preakness with additional testing procedures and finished third.

Baffert-trained Authentic finished second in the Preakness run in October with no fans in 2020 after winning the Derby. He most recently won the Preakness in 2018 with Justify, who went on to become horse racing’s 13th Triple Crown champion.

This time, he said Mage – who won the Derby at odds of 15-1 – is the horse to beat. Baffert’s just happy to be here.

“We’re just here to be a part of it and hopefully get a piece of it or all of it or whatever,” he said. “We love Pimlico. It’s basically the only time I eat crabcakes all year.”

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.