Breeders' Cup to Require Extra Scrutiny of Baffert Horses

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Bob Baffert | Coglianese

Horses trained by Bob Baffert, whose Kentucky Derby win with Medina Spirit (Protonico) remains in doubt due to a betamethasone positive, will undergo enhanced scrutiny in order to participate in the upcoming Breeders' Cup championship races at Del Mar, the Breeders' Cup announced Sunday.

The statement by the Breeders' Cup read:

“The Breeders' Cup Board of Directors convened a special review under legal counsel to evaluate the recent conduct of Mr. Bob Baffert in order to determine whether he should be permitted to participate in the 2021 World Championships. In the interest of fairness, Mr. Baffert was provided with advanced notice and an opportunity to take part in the process, and the Board appreciated his participation and cooperation in connection with its inquiries.

“Based on the totality of the circumstances, Breeders' Cup has decided to require all horses trained by Mr. Baffert to undergo enhanced out-of-competition, pre- and post-race testing and other security protocols, at his own expense, in order to participate in the 2021 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Del Mar.

“In addition to operating under the rules and regulations of both the California Horse Racing Board and Del Mar for the 2021 World Championships, those competing in any Breeders' Cup race are subject to another set of rules specific to the Breeders' Cup, which include the Breeders' Cup Condition of Entry, the Prohibited Substance Rule and the Convicted Trainer Rule. On top of our industry-leading protocols and standards, additional testing and security requirements for any horse under Mr. Baffert's care will be administered at his expense under a signed agreement to provide a more targeted layer of accountability. These additional measures include increased randomized out-of-competition testing for all prohibited and restricted substances, additional tests administered the week of the World Championships, increased veterinarian and security checks, and in-person 24-hour security surveillance ahead of the horse or horses' respective events. Mr. Baffert has agreed to abide by each of these additional measures.

“Working with horses and competing in the World Championships is a privilege, and medication restrictions and testing protocols are in place for a reason. The Breeders' Cup expects Mr. Baffert's complete cooperation in ensuring that every horse under his care is in full compliance with all medication restrictions and safety standards.

“Breeders' Cup looks forward to the uniform rules and enforcement mechanisms that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority's antidoping and medication control program will bring to our sport.”

Baffert responded to a text from the TDN, saying, “I share the values of the Breeders' Cup board and the principles which underlie the World Championships of our great sport. I welcomed the good-faith inquiry of the Breeders' Cup Racing Committee and we transparently answered their requests, through documentation and in-person meetings. I invite any pre-race scrutiny and testing for my Breeders' Cup entrants. I compliment the horsemen on the Breeders' Cup board that selflessly provided their time, diligence and integrity in reviewing the true facts and not acting on a false rush to judgment.”

The Breeders' Cup announced in mid-September it had begun a review process into Baffert's participation in this year's championship races with Medina Spirit the most high-profile of  the trainer's five drug positives in a one-year period. Churchill Downs issued Baffert a two-year suspension, while the New York Racing Association has faced legal challenges to a similar ban, possibly complicating any actions the Breeders' Cup board might have considered (The Week in Review: Baffert Should be Allowed to Run in Breeders' Cup).

Breeders' Cup President and CEO Drew Fleming responded to a request for comment via email, saying, “The thoroughbred industry is a small one and Breeders' Cup is an industry board. While there are instances of professional and personal overlap due to the nature and size of our industry, every Breeders' Cup Director takes his or her fiduciary obligations to the Breeders' Cup seriously. I have no doubt that they acted solely in the best interest of the organization when reviewing this matter. Beyond that, we do not publicly disclose the specifics of board deliberations or votes.”

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