No Preakness for Baffert after Maryland Racing Commission suspension

In this May 1, 2019, file photo, trainer Bob Baffert watches his Kentucky Derby entrant Game Winner during a workout at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Trainer Bob Baffert won’t be running horses in the 147th Preakness Stakes in Baltimore: The Maryland Racing Commission has suspended him.

The suspension follows dozens of drugging violations over the years, including with last year’s Kentucky Derby winner.

The Maryland Racing Commission’s decision to suspend Baffert is based on a reciprocity regulation with other states that already have taken action, according to a letter Monday from the Maryland Racing Commission.

“So, Bob Baffert cannot run any horses at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, or the Belmont Stakes, and could not have a winner of the Triple Crown or any of those three races this year,” said Marty Irby, senior vice president at the Center for a Humane Economy and executive director at Animal Wellness Action.

“It’s like suspending Tom Brady from the Super Bowl,” he said.

Irby’s group had been pushing for Baffert’s suspension and welcomed the news.

In addition to penalties imposed by state commissions, the race tracks where two legs of the Triple Crown are run have imposed two-year suspensions — although those bans are facing legal challenges.

“We’re going to prevent him from running in 2022. But there’s a real good chance that he’s not going to be running any horses, at least in the Derby, and the Belmont in 2023, as well,” Irby said.

Left to right: Marty Irby, Ed Martin, Bill Lear, Kathy Anderson, Joe DeFrancis, and Chris McCarron all testify before the U.S. House in January 2020 at a hearing on anti-doping legislation. (Courtesy Animal Wellness Action)

A federal bill which was signed into law in December 2020 and takes effect in July of this year makes the use of all race-day medications and drugs illegal in all 50 states.

“So this would have already been the last Triple Crown where drugs were potentially used,” Irby said. “But we’re now seeing the effects of the 2021 Kentucky Derby for Bob Baffert’s horse that crossed the finish line first tested positive for betamethasone, which is a drug that could be used to mask pain.”

The impact of Baffert’s suspensions on betting?

“Whether you agree with gambling or not, (people) who are betting are making decisions on results from previous races, where the horses have run, what their times are, what their breeding is, and you sometimes can’t have any knowledge or any idea of what drug may be in that horse’s system,” Irby said.

In some instances, certain drugs, such as Lasix, are labeled and listed in racing programs.

“But most of the time, no one knows. And so it is something that is a real crapshoot, and these betters are are not necessarily making the best decisions for themselves based on the use of these drugs,” he noted.

Baffert recently lost his bid for emergency relief from his 90-day suspension by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. It’s the result of medication violations involving some of his horses, including Medina Spirit.

The CHRB said Saturday that Baffert will be banned from all CHRB-licensed facilities and won’t be permitted to be involved in the training of horses that have previously been under his care.

Churchill Downs has suspended Baffert for the Kentucky Derby for this year and next. He is fighting that ban in federal court.

Churchill Downs called Baffert’s lawsuit disappointing but not surprising, and said in a statement it would fight the suit and defend the company’s rights.

“His claims are meritless and consistent with his pattern of failed drug tests, denials, excuses and attempts to blame others and identify loopholes in order to avoid taking responsibility for his actions,” it added.

Medina Spirit died Dec. 6 from what Baffert said was a heart attack following a workout at Santa Anita racetrack in California. A necropsy revealed no definitive cause for his death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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