Horse Racing Needs to Save Itself and Get Rid of Bob Baffert

Horse racing is one of my favorite sports and it can be impossible to defend.

My wife, like millions of others across the country, loathes horse racing. They only see and hear the bad news, like horses breaking down at Santa Anita or drug cheats like Bob Baffert. They liken it to animal abuse and, if that’s all you see, it’s hard to argue.

bob baffert is an asshole
For me as a fan of the sport, I view it differently. I see horses that love run and the vast majority of humans around them that care for their horses. I see the trainers and jockeys and grooms who cry tears of joy when they win a big race – or even a not so big race. I think about the races that don’t get aired on NBC, and what they can mean for their lives, and their horses.

As I write this, there is a very, very dark cloud hanging over the sport and his name is Bob Baffert.

You know Baffert as the most successful horse racing trainer in the past 25 years, if not ever. Or you know him as one of the sport’s worst cheats. For the past several years, his horses have constantly failed drug tests, and he keeps getting away with it.

In 2018, his future Triple Crown winner Justify failed a drug test after the Santa Anita Derby, before the Kentucky Derby. The California horse racing officials kept it under wraps, and eventually led Baffert off as he used a “contaminated hay” excuse that Justify ate hay that contained the illicit drugs. It was bullshit but it worked.

In 2021, his Kentucky Derby Medina Spirit was popped for having a steroid in his blood test and Baffert again went off the deep end with excuses. First, it was “cancel culture” as if the cultural wars pushed by Fox News caused his horse to fail a drug test. Then, it was a bizarre theory about a groom urinating on the horse’s hay after drinking cough syrup. Regardless, Baffert maintained for 48 hours that there was zero chance he gave the horse the illegal substance and he was being railroaded.

That was until he put out a statement that said, essentially, yep, a veterinarian has used a substance on the horse that caused the positive drug test.

i hate bob baffert
Is Medina Spirit barred from running in the Preakness on Saturday? Of course not. Don’t be silly. The horse racing game in every state except New York and Kentucky is only driven by money and gambling.

Bob Baffert won’t be there at Pimlico. He said he’s staying home as to not cause a distraction. In reality, he’s hiding from having to answer any media questions because he’s a coward.

Do you think anyone at the Maryland Racing Commission really cares about this situation? If anything, this is a godsend. There will be far more attention on this year’s Preakness than any going back to American Pharoah’s in 2015, as it won’t only be about a potential Triple Crown, but the controversy associated with Baffert. Expect ratings to be up, which means the handle on the race will be up. For the dying horse racing industry in Maryland, this is only good news.

Kentucky already suspended Baffert and who knows what the New York Racing Association will do for the Belmont Stakes in June should Medina Spirit wins. If the horse loses the Preakness, there will be no issue as Baffert will stay a million miles away from Belmont. But if the horse wins, he’ll be almost obligated to go for the Triple Crown.

It won’t be the first time a crooked trainer would end up in Belmont on the brink of history. In 2008, now-disgraced trainer Rick Dutrow showed up with Big Brown under a cloud of suspicion. On that hot day in June 2008, Big Brown didn’t even finish the race. The cynic in all of us will point to how New York had, then as is now, the most stringent drug testing and the horse tried to run clean and couldn’t keep up. Dutrow eventually got caught again and again is serving a 10-year ban from the sport.

It was easy to suspend the unlikable Dutrow, who flaunted the rules and didn’t have the legacy that Bob Baffert does. Baffert is a titan of the sport, having just set – if only temporarily – the record for most Kentucky Derby wins. He’s the most recognizable face in the sport, and the sport simply refuses to hold him accountable.

If it feels familiar, it’s because we did this with baseball two decades ago, as Barry Bonds set a new home run record in 2001 while looking like an obvious steroid freak. The sport, of course, did nothing about it at the time. Today, Bonds is viewed rightfully as a cheat, prevented from entering the Hall of Fame with his records rendered meaningless, like the numbers put up by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa before him.

Eventually, though, the sport cracked down and the steroid era ended. At some point, enough was enough and the cheats were rooted out.

It has felt like horse racing has made great strides in the past decade, with more stringent testing across the country and a collective industry push for more reform, even as far as pushing federal legislation.

While these actions and motives are noteworthy, they are ultimately rendered meaningless by the continued coddling of Bob Baffert.

It’s time for horse racing to put its foot down and say “enough is enough” for once. I don’t care if he’s the biggest name in the sport. That only means he’s the biggest cheat. Get him out of here. 

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