Suspended Hall of Fame horse racing trainer Bob Baffert fights to save Medina Spirit’s legacy, denies cheating

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who’s banned from the Kentucky Derby, is on a mission to restore two legacies — his personal and that of Medina Spirit, who was stripped of the 2021 victory after testing optimistic for an anti-inflammatory treatment following the race.

“I have never had an opportunity to inform the story,” Baffert advised ESPN’s Marty Smith in an interview at his California dwelling. “I’ve been ready. We’ve been going by way of all of the processes. I by no means acquired my due course of with Churchill Downs.”

Baffert, a six-time winner of the Kentucky Derby who has saddled 34 horses within the famed race, won’t be in attendance for the 148th operating on Saturday. He is also banned from competing for the opposite two jewels of the Triple Crown — the Preakness on May 21 and the Belmont Stakes on June 11.

Medina Spirit examined optimistic for betamethasone after final yr’s victory and was disqualified from that victory in a ruling handed down this yr. The anti-inflammatory treatment is allowed in Kentucky, however it should clear a horse’s system not less than 14 days earlier than a race. It’s thought of a Class C drug, with a lesser potential to affect efficiency, however any stage of detection on race day is a violation.

As a consequence, Churchill Downs Inc. barred Baffert from getting into horses at any of its tracks for this yr and thru mid-2023. The 38 U.S. racing states function on a system of reciprocity, which means if an proprietor, trainer or jockey is banned in a single state, the others will honor that.

“Who would’ve thought an ointment — an ointment — took down the Kentucky Derby winner,” Baffert advised ESPN. “That’s simply not proper. And that is one thing that we’re going to, you understand, we’re gonna struggle vigorously to save that horse’s Kentucky Derby, as a result of he … deserved the win.”

Baffert, 69, is suing Churchill Downs Inc. in federal courtroom to finish his suspension. He has failed in a number of makes an attempt in Kentucky to overturn the monitor’s ban or the beginning of his 90-day suspension by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which started April 4.

When requested instantly if he knowingly cheated, Baffert vehemently denied it to ESPN: “No.”

“It killed me once they made an enormous deal taking [Medina Spirit’s] identify off, within the paddock,” mentioned Baffert. And they took my indicators down on the barn. It’s robust to see that, however you understand what, on the finish of the day, when the details come out … it tells a unique story.

“That day will come. Yeah.”

Medina Spirit died on Dec. 6 from what Baffert mentioned was a coronary heart assault after a exercise. A necropsy failed to pinpoint the trigger.

“I feel the primary factor is to save the legacy of Medina Spirit. That’s what I’m combating for,” Baffert advised ESPN. “And I would like to struggle for the game. The legacy of the game. The sport is a superb sport. It’s on the up and up. I feel it is cleaner now than it ever has been.

“I simply suppose that persons are getting the flawed info, and the phrase wants to get on the market.”

Last week, a listening to officer really helpful a two-year suspension for Baffert in New York for repeated treatment violations involving his horses that occurred in different states. If it is permitted by a New York Racing Association panel, Baffert plans to contest the ruling, which may preserve him from getting into horses at Saratoga in upstate New York when its summer season season begins July 14.

Baffert, who has gained seven Preaknesses and three Belmonts as well as to his six wins in horse racing’s marquee occasion, advised ESPN that the ointment used on Medina Spirit had “zero influence” on his efficiency — “and you will not discover a scientist that may let you know [that it did].

“People had been getting flawed info, and this was happening so quick,” Baffert added. “… Everybody simply ran with a false narrative. Just ran. They’re nonetheless operating with a false narrative. And it takes some time to change that, particularly, you understand, the biased reporting towards me. … I’m nonetheless coping with that. But in time, like I mentioned, once we get to a impartial, truthful … We simply want somebody with widespread sense, equity to pay attention to this — and now we have the details, assessments. We have all the pieces. It’s all there.”

For now, Baffert advised ESPN that he is taking time for himself whereas “dealing” with the suspension.

“I’m truly taking this time to practice myself, making an attempt to get myself match, apprehensive about my well being, as a result of everyone was apprehensive about me,” mentioned Baffert, who mentioned he has no plans to retire. “… I’m spending time with my household, my children, and, you understand, make a journey or two. I’ve by no means taken holidays and I’ve by no means been away from my horses this lengthy.”

As the horses enter the beginning gate on Saturday, Baffert will likely be “laying low” and pulling for 2 of the horses that had been in his barn — Messier (8-1 odds) and Taiba (12-1) — that are actually being educated by Tim Yakteen, a former assistant below Baffert who has run his personal steady for 18 years.

“Of course, I’m gonna watch the Kentucky Derby,” mentioned Baffert, who can return to racing when his 90-day suspension ends July 2.

“… I nonetheless have so much of hearth in me. I get pleasure from what I do. I like what I do.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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