Is the Bob Baffert Scandal Going to Affect the Breeder’s Cup?


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The American horse racing industry has been rocked this year by the latest scandal surrounding trainer Bob Baffert.

As one of the most successful trainers around, Baffert has been a regular winner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic as well as in other big races, but how will the drugs testing scandal affect this year’s races?

The Background

Baffert’s Medina Spirit claimed an exciting victory in the 2021 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, finishing ahead of Mandaloun. However, the event was soon plunged into confusion when the winning horse tested positive for betamethasone. This is a banned steroid that is used to relieve joint pain.

At the time of writing, there is still no official confirmation of whether the Kentucky Derby win will be taken away from the Medina Spirit and given to Mandaloun instead, but there have been other aspects of the controversy in the news lately that are also worth looking at.

Baffert was banned from competing in the Kentucky Derby for the next couple of years. This is a race he has won 7 times in the past, so not being able to compete at Churchill Downs until the 2023 Spring Meet would be a huge blow to him. There is no sign as of yet that he is planning to appeal this decision.

This was followed by a ban imposed by the New York Racing Association that would see him unable to enter his horses in races like the Belmont Stakes and the Saratoga Stakes. These steps were taken not just due to the Medina Spirit drugs test, but also taking into account the other times his horses have failed these tests. In fact, 4 of his horses failed drugs tests in 2020.

Recently, Baffert has achieved a temporary injunction that lets him compete in New York pending the final outcome of the case. It seems that there is still a long way to go in this controversy and the current new stories suggest that the trainer is seeking some $162,000 in legal fees from the horse racing authorities in New York, so we can expect this to run for a bit longer.

How Is the Breeders’ Cup Affected?

Baffert’s previous successes in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2014, 2015, and 2016 means that there is a great deal of interest in whether he will be able to enter a horse this year. The 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic is due to take place on November 6 at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in California.

With no ban in place for the trainer in this part of the country, it is expected that he will be free to aim for another victory at Del Mar. Indeed, Medina Spirit is currently regarded as being among the favorites in this race in the early betting.

Following the Kentucky Derby win and subsequent controversy, Medina Spirit has returned to racing and recently won the $100,000 Shared Belief event at Del Mar. John Velazquez was the winning jockey, and Baffert admitted to being nervous before the race but that the victory confirmed that Medina Spirit is a good horse.

What Happens Next?

The final line-up for the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic is yet to be confirmed, with the last qualifying races still to take place.

The current standings show Maxfield and Mystic Guide leading the way, followed by Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality. You can check out the latest Breeders’ Cup odds here.

There is no doubt that the drug testing scandal has upset Bob Baffert’s preparation for the event this year, but there is still a chance that he reaches the Breeder’s Cup with Medina Spirit or with another of his horses.