The Kentucky Derby on Saturday is set to look different this year with Hall of Fame horse trainer Bob Baffert suspended from the race.
Baffert is one of the most famous trainers in the sport, leading for decades with his successful horses.
However, he has been fighting for his reputation since horse Medina Spirit tested positive for an illegal substance after winning the 2021 Kentucky Derby.
The positive test has led to a host of repercussions for Baffert, including a suspension from the 2022 Kentucky Derby.
Here’s what led up to Baffert’s suspension:
Medina Spirit tests positive for steroid after 2021 Kentucky Derby
Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone after finishing first place at the 2021 Kentucky Derby.
Trainers are allowed to give their horses the drug during training but it must be cleared out of the animal’s system the day of the race.
A follow-up spit test confirmed the positive drug result, although Baffert denied the horse was injected with betamethasone.
Baffert says the drug got into Medina Spirit’s system through an anti-fungal ointment, which contains betamethasone and was used to treat dermatitis.
Despite the explanation, Churchill Downs, which runs the Kentucky Derby, said it does not matter how the drug got in the horse’s system and that it was still illegal for the race.
Racing world shaken in aftermath of positive test
Churchill Downs was quick to respond to the issue in 2021, suspending Baffert through the end of the 2023 Spring Meet.
However, the racetrack and Baffert have been battling it out in court. A court initially sided with the trainer, saying Churchill Downs violated his right to respond to the allegations against him.
Along with the two-year suspension from Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) suspended Baffert for 90 days in February and issued him a $7,500 fine.
“During his [90-day] suspension, Mr. Baffert is denied the privileges of all facilities under the jurisdiction of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Entry of all horses owned or trained by Mr. Baffert is denied pending transfer to persons acceptable to the stewards,” the commission said.
KHRC also took away Medina Spirit’s 2021 win, two months after the horse died from a heart attack following a training session.
Baffert has also challenged the KHRC’s suspension in court.
Not the first time Baffert has faced allegations
Baffert has had several cases where horses have tested positive for illegal substances on race day.
Baffert’s horse Gamine tested positive for drugs in her system on two separate occasions, including one occasion when it had betamethasone in its system. In another, the horse was found to have more than the allowed amount of lidocaine.
Another horse, Charlatan, also tested positive for lidocaine at a race.
Baffert was suspended for 15 days over the positive lidocaine tests, but fought it and was able to overturn the suspension.
Baffert’s influence still looming over 2022 Kentucky Derby
Although Baffert himself is not allowed to compete, horses he has trained will compete in the race.
Horses Messier and Taiba were transferred to different owners so they could compete on Saturday.
However, the horse Epicenter is No. 1 on the derby’s leaderboard.
Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby six times and only missed the race a handful of times in his career.