Time is running out in legal wars, Bob Baffert says four of his horses are being transferred to new trainers
As Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s legal cases continue to play out in the Kentucky court system, four of his horses have been transferred to two different trainers – Tim Yakteen and Rodolphe Brisset – in hopes that the horses could accumulate enough points to compete in this Kentucky Derby of the year.
Baffert, 69, has been suspended for two years by Churchill Downs following the positive doping test of Medina Spirit last year, the original winner of the 2021 Derby trained by Baffert.
Medina Spirit, who died in December while training at Santa Anita, was stripped of the Derby 21 title earlier this year by a three-member panel of Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards. Derby 21 runner-up Mandaloun was crowned the new winner and the $1.8 million purse went to his connections.
But the KHRC decision also included a 90-day suspension and a $7,500 fine for Baffert. He and his legal team appealed the decision, only for a Circuit Court judge in Franklin, Ky. to reject Baffert’s request to stay the suspension. Judge Thomas Wingate moved the start date of the suspension from March 8 to April 4 so Baffert’s team could appeal.
Baffert also sued Churchill Downs (CDI) in federal court in Kentucky on March 1, and CDI chief executive Bill Carstanjen and one of its board members, R. Alex Rankin, are also charged. in pursuit. Baffert claims that the defendants “unlawfully deprived and will continue to deprive Baffert of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights and his right to participate in horse racing in Kentucky under Kentucky law,” according to the pursuit.
While the only appeal process unfolds, Baffert may not be able to enter any of his horses in this year’s Derby, considered the country’s most prestigious event in thoroughbred horse racing. Horses trained by Baffert have won the Derby six times, and two of those horses have won the Triple Crown.
“The most important thing for me is that Messier, Doppelganger, McLaren Vale, and black viper — some of the best talent in the race this year — are capable of competing,” Baffert said in a statement.
Now California trainer Yakteen will oversee three of those horses – Messier lookalike and McLaren Vale – while Kentucky-based Brisset will train black viper. All four horses are owned by SF Racing LLC.
“They’ll show up on their next starts,” Yakteen said in an interview, referring to the three Baffert horses. “We hope they have the talent to take us to the Derby. It’s exiting. They impressed me, from what I saw as a foreigner.
Yakteen said Messier – who won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes by 15 lengths at Santa Anita Park on February 6 – and McLaren Vale would compete in the next race of the Santa Anita derby scheduled for April 9, and that Doppleganger would likely compete in the Arkansas Derby on April 2.
“As long as they meet my expectations and SF’s expectations, they will validate themselves, get the points needed to take us to the Derby,” Yakteen said. “You want your horses to be competitive in the Derby. That’s what we’re looking for. These next upcoming races are the ones that will earn the most points. »
Yakteen said he had no idea the transfer would take place and hoped Baffert “would be able to sort things out, where (SF Racing) could campaign under him in the Derby”.
“I think that would have been the perfect scenario,” Yakteen said. “It’s a tough business. I have known Bob for a long time. Whenever our industry faces a challenge, like what Bob is going through, it’s always tough.
Baffert’s legal team argues he treated Medina Spirit with a topical ointment containing betamethasone, a corticosteroid, but Baffert didn’t break any rules since he didn’t inject the foal.
Baffert also faces a possible lengthy suspension from the New York Racing Association (NYRA), which issued a temporary suspension last year. A NYRA administrative hearing was held from January 24-28 of this year. Retired New York State Supreme Court Justice O. Peter Sherwood presided over the hearing and will deliver a decision.
Yakteen said he was just grateful to suddenly have “beautiful horses” in his care.
“(Baffert’s) team lost some of their best players,” Yakteen said. “Touch wood, when it comes to the Derby it’s like any sport at this level, you need things to go well and fall your way. Sometimes it’s the difference between winning and losing. Hopefully we’ll have some luck on our side. SF is a huge supporter of our industry, and I would love to see relationships being able to celebrate and be proud of the rookies.