The face of horse racing returned to his natural habitat Sunday, as Bob Baffert was back in his Santa Anita Park barn. Horses were on the track and as the Daily Racing Form reported, the Hall of Fame trainer was back in CEO mode, directing his staff via walkie-talkie.
Life was slowly returning to normal at Baffert’s Barn No. 1, as the trainer emerged from his 90-day suspension imposed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. That suspension for the excessive betamethasone found in Medina Spirit after he crossed the 2021 Kentucky Derby finish line first ended Saturday.
Baffert’s extensive legal fight to clear his name and his late colt’s name suffered numerous defeats through the first half of 2022. Medina Spirit was stripped of his Derby title and Baffert’s appeal to stay his KHRC suspension was turned aside in early April. He began serving his suspension April 4, as California joined other state racing jurisdictions in upholding reciprocity agreements.
Meanwhile, his barn was dispersed to two trainers: former assistant Tim Yakteen and Sean McCarthy. Yakteen took several high-profile horses, like Derby starters Taiba and Messier and Preakness starter Armagnac. McCarthy took most of Baffert’s numerous other charges. Taiba won the Santa Anita Derby for Yakteen. He’d finish 12th in the Derby. Messier finished second in the Santa Anita Derby and 15th in the Derby. Armagnac, who finished seventh in the Preakness, won a May 8 allowance.
Baffert’s horses continued on their merry stakes-winning way
McCarthy won three graded stakes with Baffert horses: Private Mission won the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes, Hopper took the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes and Under the Stars took the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks.
“They did a good job,” Baffert told the DRF about Yakteen and McCarthy. “I’m proud of them. They kept it together.”
Baffert’s return comes in time to prep his barn for the Del Mar summer meet, which begins July 22. He has been one of the dominant trainers at the seaside track, but finds himself behind schedule. Especially with the plethora of 2-year-olds he told the DRF are in his barn.
You’ll see plenty of Baffert at Del Mar
Baffert will be even more of a presence at Del Mar. That’s because he remains persona non grata at Saratoga, courtesy of the New York Racing Association’s ban from its tracks that extends through next January 25. He remains blacklisted at Churchill Downs and all Churchill Downs Inc. tracks through the 2023 Kentucky Derby.
Those legalities aside, Baffert has more pressing matters. Like getting back in his routine. He said this was the longest he’s been away from horses. He told the DRF he attended horse sales during his suspension, which he normally does every September anyway. But Baffert said he paid only scant attention to the racing scene.
“I need about a week to get my bearings,” he told Horse Racing Nation. “I really don’t know at this point who’s in the barn, who isn’t. Who’s working who isn’t. Who’s ready to run. All those things. So we’ll get that sorted out and go from there.”