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Posted 2022-03-24 18:45:26  
Baffert's Best Move

 

With sanctions looming or currently in place from both the Kentucky regulator as well as track owner Churchill Downs Inc., trainer Bob Baffert announced March 24 that four of his leading 3-year-olds—Messier , Doppelganger , McLaren Vale , and Blackadder — would be moved to other trainers.  A 90-day suspension issued to Baffert by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is scheduled to take effect next month, barring a legal ruling in the trainer's favor. Also, Baffert's top 3-year-olds this spring have not earned any qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, owing to CDI's suspension of him from its racetracks through the middle of 2023.  That "private property" suspension issued by CDI is separate from the one issued by the KHRC. Both sanctions are being fought by Baffert attorneys in court, with Baffert's attorneys asking the Kentucky Court of Appeals to issue him a stay of his suspension after both the KHRC and Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate denied him one.   The suspensions are related to medication violations from Baffert trainees, capped by Zedan Racing Stables' Medina Spirit's post-race positive test for betamethasone following the 2021 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) at Churchill Downs. The KHRC suspension of Baffert was issued last month, along with Medina Spirit's disqualification from the race.  Because of reciprocity, the KHRC suspension—once started—will be honored by all other racing states and major international jurisdictions. In California, Baffert will be required to vacate his barns, remove his signage, and transfer his horses to other trainers.  Sign up for BloodHorse Daily  The 3-year-olds previously trained by Baffert can earn qualifying points with top-four finishes in Road to the Kentucky Derby races when starting for other trainers.  Messier, Doppelganger, and McLaren Vale will remain on the West Coast and will be transferred to trainer Tim Yakteen, a former Baffert assistant who launched his own training career in 2004. Yakteen is based in Southern California, as is Baffert.  Dual graded stakes winner Messier is one of the early favorites for the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1) April 9 at Santa Anita Park. Doppelganger and McLaren Vale are graded-placed colts. Blackadder will join trainer Rodolphe Brisset, who runs in Kentucky, Arkansas, and in eastern parts of the country. Blackadder is a skilled synthetic performer, having won the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. That race earned him automatic entry in this year's Preakness Stakes (G1).  SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable, and Siena Farm are partners in the four horses.  Tom Ryan<br> Keeneland September yearling sales on Sept. 20, 2021. Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt Tom Ryan at the 2021 September Yearling Sale at Keeneland  "Messier, Doppelganger, McLaren Vale, and Blackadder are some of racing's most exciting colts this year, and we are grateful for Bob's outstanding training effort with them," SF Racing's Tom Ryan said in a release. "We salute Bob for making the tough but necessary decision that will allow them to prove themselves as top talents in racing this year."  According to the connections, Messier will run in the Santa Anita Derby while Doppelganger will head to the April 2 Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park. McLaren Vale is a possibility for either of those two stakes. While in Kentucky, Blackadder will run in either the April 2 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on a synthetic surface at Turfway Park or the April 9 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland. All four of those stakes offer 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers.  "Bob has said from the beginning that he appreciates the support we have given him and that if we have horses good enough to get to the Kentucky Derby, they will get there with or without him," said Sol Kumin, who heads the Madaket Stables group. "He said he would not stand in our way and would encourage us to do that. He still has his own fight, but now it's time to move the few horses that have a chance to run in the Derby and Bob is supportive of that because it's the right thing to do for the owners and he deserves credit for that."  The four 3-year-olds represent just a small percentage of Baffert's approximate 90-horse stable, split in two divisions between Santa Anita Park and Los Alamitos Race Course.  "The most important thing to me is that Messier, Doppelganger, McLaren Vale, and Blackadder—some of the top talents in racing this year—are able to compete," said Baffert, a two-time Triple Crown winner whose trainees have won the Kentucky Derby six times.  "I encouraged the owners to move them, not only because it is best for these horses and their future in racing, but also for fans of the sport who are excited to watch them run. I know that they are in good hands training with Tim and Rudy, and I look forward to cheering them on," the trainer added. Bob Baffert talking with media on Medina Spirit the morning after winning the Kentucky Derby (G1).  Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses, people and scenes at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 2, 2021. Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt Bob Baffert speaks to the media the day after Medina Spirit crossed the wire first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby  California rules regarding suspensions do not allow trainers to pass horses to current assistants. There is similar language in the CDI ban.  "Churchill has imposed unprecedented unilateral demands and restrictions regarding participation of these horses," said Baffert attorney Clark Brewster said in the release. "Legal remedies on Bob's behalf may not be finalized for several months. Therefore, the transfer of training from Bob to Mr. Yakteen will mitigate the losses—at least as they relate to these four horses—during the pendency of the administrative agency and court proceedings."  In court earlier this month, Baffert's attorneys claimed the suspension would be devastating to the trainer and potentially ruin his career. They argued that California Horse Racing Board rules require a trainer receiving a suspension of Baffert's length to disband his stable and forfeit stall space.  Though these rules apply to violations in California, the CHRB clarified in a release this week that it would apply its regulations due to reciprocity with the KHRC.  If Baffert serves his suspension, it is unclear who will train the bulk of his horses.  "Right now, that's a question that's not ready to be answered," Baffert told the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the barn changes.  The Times further reported that Baffert said he's still evaluating if any of his 3-year-old fillies will change barns in order to try and qualify for the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), run at Churchill Downs the day before the May Kentucky Derby (G1).  Neither Brisset nor Yakteen has started a horse in the Kentucky Derby. The two are graded stakes-winning trainers.  The barn changes of the four horses could also prove beneficial to Churchill Downs, which prior to the KHRC suspension and its potential implementation this spring, had run the risk of depleting its signature race of some of the top 3-year-old talent in the country. With a suspension honored with reciprocity, Baffert could have continued to train the horses and awaited a race such as the Preakness with them.  None of the four transferred horses were previously individual betting interests in Kentucky Derby Future wager pools, leaving them to fall in a category known as "all other 3-year-olds," also called the field.  Not having any points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, each will likely need to secure at least a top-two or top-three finish in upcoming Derby preps to secure entrance into the 20-horse classic, which typically oversubscribes.

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