Despite Churchill Ban, Key Owners Keep Their Horses With Baffert

Wynstock | Benoit

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With Churchill Downs having ruled that any horse that remained in the Baffert barn as of Jan. 29 would be ineligible to run in the GI Kentucky Derby, Monday was decision day for Baffert's owners. In 2022 and 2023, several moved their horses into the barn of former Baffert assistant Tim Yakteen prior to the Derby, but that may not turn out to be the case this year. At least four owners who have Derby candidates with Baffert have said their horses will remain under the care of their Hall of Fame trainer.

Owners Jack Liebau, Tom Ryan and Mike Pegram told the TDN that they will not be taking their horses away from Baffert, even though that means they cannot run in the Derby. In addition, Ed Nevins, the director of the Baoma Corp, the owner of the highly regarded 3-year-old Nysos (Nyquist), told Horse Racing Nation that the undefeated colt will also remain in Baffert's care.

The TDN reached out to other owners who have Derby prospects with Baffert, including Amr Zedan, but, at deadline for this story, had not received a response from them. Baffert has had little to say about his situation and was unavailable for comment Monday.

The New York-bred Wynstock (Solomini) is entered in Saturday's GIII Southwest S. at Oaklawn. The winner of the GII Los Alamitos Futurity, he is co-owned by Liebau and Dr. Edward Allred, the owner of Los Alamitos.

“When Wynstock won the Los Alamitos Futurity, Dr. Allred, who is the majority owner, said that the horse was not going to go to the Kentucky Derby because he thought Churchill was treating Baffert unfairly,” Liebau said. “I guess we will look at the Preakness, but who knows what the status of the horse will be by Preakness time and how good the horse is. Dr. Allred calls the shots.”

Ryan is the managing partner of SF Bloodstock, which partners with Starlight Racing and Madaket Stables, a group that is among Baffert's biggest owners.

“Our horses will be in their own stalls tomorrow morning, and that says it all, doesn't it?” said Ryan.

Jack Wolf, the managing partner of Starlight Racing, added: “Tom Ryan is the managing partner and I agree with the decision he has made, which is we're not changing trainers. We just feel like it is the right thing to do and not just from a loyalty standpoint. We have nothing against Tim Yakteen. We think he is a very good trainer and this has nothing to do with him. It can be very destructive to these horses at this young age to go to a different barn and change conditioners, change their feed, change everything.”

Pegram, who has had horses with Baffert ever since he switched over to Thoroughbreds and has a Derby candidate this year in Wine Me Up (Vino Rosso), responded to a text from the TDN, writing: “We're doing the same as we have the last two years, staying with Bobby.”

Nysos has won his two starts by a combined margin of 19 1/4 lengths and may prove to be the best of Baffert's 3-year-olds.

“Unfortunately, our country is devolving into a nation where excluding the top competition is considered a legitimate way to win,” Nevins told Horse Racing Nation's Ron Flatter. “Bob Baffert is our trainer, and we stand with him and any decisions he makes regarding our horses.”

After Medina Spirit (Protonico) tested positive for the medication betamethasone following the 2021 Derby, Churchill banned Baffert from its tracks. The suspension initially was for two years but Churchill later amended that and included 2024 to the ban. In addition, in 2023, it gave owners until the end of February to move their horses from Baffert in order to be eligible for the Derby. This year decision day was moved up by one month.

 

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