(Bob Baffert at Churchill Downs before the entire suspension debacle…and he won’t be seen on the backstretch any time soon / Photo by Gene McLean)

The headline for this week’s doodlings should be, maybe, this:

“You Have Got To Be F-ing Kidding Me…

Or, maybe, this:

“What In The Hell Are You Thinking…”

Or, yet, maybe this:

“The Media & This Industry Never, Ever, Ever Cease to Amaze Me…With Their Stupidity…”

Any way you want to cut it, stack it, pile it…there’s a whole lot of muck that needs to be pitted…and, due to the avalanche of by-products, I went out and purchased a new fork to help with the pitching this week…so let’s get started…

IMO, Churchill Downs Should Never Let Bob Baffert Return…Ever…

A lot has been written of late about Churchill Downs’ on-going suspension of horse trainer and convicted cheater Bob Baffert. Seems as if they take great exception to the fact that the world’s most famous and renowned horse racing track — which just so happens to be the home of the world’s most famous and renowned horse race in the Kentucky Derby — has extended their initial 2-year ban on Baffert through this year, too, keeping him from participating in and attending the 150th version of the “Run for the Roses.”

Recently, both Ray Paulick, who headlines the popular blog “The Paulick Report,” and John Clay, a popular sports columnist for “The Lexington Herald-Leader,” have launched critical opinions of the Churchill Downs’ suspension extension and have accused the track’s administration of being “petty.”

Both of these esteemed writers opine and more than insinuate that the suspension extension will prevent the 150th version of the Kentucky Derby from attracting the best 3-year-olds in the world, (because, in their minds, they are trained by Baffert), and, thus, will not be the caliber of race that it has been and should forever be.

And, it seems, as if both of these talented and thoughtful columnists are playing to a crowd of Baffert apologists who follow along blindly like they are star-struck by their cult leader Baffert, who does appear to resemble the disgraced evangelists Jim Bakker, Billy James Hargis and Jimmy Swaggart.

In short, they have called out Churchill Downs and its’ leadership team — calling them “petty.”

Let’s be clear, guys.

There is one person — and one person only — responsible for the current ban on Bob Baffert. And, it is none other than Bob Baffert.

Whether the violations were intentional or not, it does not matter. The rules that govern racing in Kentucky were broken. More than once, mind you.

Bob Baffert, whether by accident or design, cheated.

Whether he ever man’s up and takes responsibility for all the drug overages and positive tests or not, Baffert has now been charged and convicted of running horses in both the Kentucky Derby (Medina Spirit) and the Kentucky Oaks (Gamine) with an illegal amount of certain drugs in their respective systems. No other person in the history of the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks — which will be 150 years old this coming May — can make that proud claim. None. He is the record holder.

Bob Baffert, whether by accident or design, cheated.

Whether Baffert currently trains a group of talented 3-year-olds who have already demonstrated enough talent that may or may not warrant consideration for nomination and entry into the 150th Kentucky Derby, it truly does not matter. After all, lest you forget, it was Baffert, and Baffert alone, who created the current situation that prohibits him from gaining entry to the property and running any horse at any track owned by Churchill Downs.

Bob Baffert, whether by accident or design, cheated.

Then, he lied.

Then, his lawyers filed lawsuit after lawsuit against both Churchill Downs, the corporation, and its’ leaders, like Bill Carstanjen, personally.

Lawsuits, I will remind you, that he never won in any court of law.

Whether Baffert’s current roster of owners and their respective horses — who have tried to publicly muscle Churchill Downs into lifting the ban by announcing that they will not move their horses to another trainer just to gain entry to the world’s greatest race and participate in this year’s Kentucky Derby — come to Kentucky or not does not matter, either.

They can take their horse and run somewhere, anywhere they want to — except for a Churchill Downs racetrack — and they can have a blast beaten up 3 or 4 other horses in a G3 Stakes and in front of about 5,000 fans. I’m sure the experience will be great. Go. Enjoy.

The Kentucky Derby’s 20-horse starting gate will be full. The spectacular new Paddock will be sparkling and shinning. The grand, old house will be filled to the gills.

Churchill Downs will be full, yet again. In fact, I’m told by highly respected ticket vendors that the track is already, nearly sold out. There will be 150,000 — or more — people screaming and singing “My Old Kentucky Home.”

The winner will be crowned the champion of the 150th Kentucky Derby with a band of roses and a celebration to match no other. The winning connections will grab a trophy created from gold and rubies and like no other relic in the history of sport. It will be spectacular. It will be glorious.

And, the winning horse will have earned the title as the best 3-year-old in the world, and will be remembered forever and ever. That horse will have earned the title of “Best Horse.” On the track. And, not anointed by someone who has never owned a horse or had one good enough to come close to winning the world’s most prestigious event.

How many times in history has the “best horse” — according to some writer or racing pundit — not won the Kentucky Derby? Every damn year, the media gets behind some horse and touts it all Derby Week long. In all my years, I have never seen the media’s “Hot Horse” ever win. Ever.

How many times in history has the “best horse” — according to some trainer or backside guru — ever made it to the Kentucky Derby? Just a year ago, the pre-race favorite didn’t make the starting gate.

This year’s Kentucky Derby — the 150th — will be monumental and it will be history in the making.

Simply put, on the first Saturday in May, not one person in this world, and not one person at Churchill Downs, will miss Bob Baffert. There will be no banners flying overhead asking his whereabouts. There will be no one refusing to bet because one of Baffert’s horses is not in the field of 20. There will be no tears shed for the missing Baffert. Not even TV prop Kenny Rice can resurrect yet another story about his ill-fated buddy.

The truth is very simple. The Kentucky Derby is bigger and more important than any one person. Especially one that has been found to have cheated it in before.

Churchill Downs and the highly-esteemed professionals hired to be the custodians of the famed facility and both the history and future of the Kentucky Derby — namely Bill Carstanjen, Bill Mudd, Mike Anderson and Mike Ziegler — have one overriding responsibility in their time as the heads of decision-making at the track.

Protect and enhance the real grounds of Churchill Downs.

And, nobody can argue that this group has done just that — what with the addition of the First Turn Pavilion and the new, amazing Paddock in just the last two years alone.

Job done. Amazing job done.

The other main job is to protect and enhance the safety and credibility of the entire live racing product — led, undeniably, by the world’s greatest horse race of all time, The Kentucky Derby.

And, without question, nobody can argue that this group has done just that, as well. Overall, purses are at an all-time high. Field size is at an all-time high. Requests for stalls has never been more in demand. The caliber of the race schedule and the horses filling those same races has never been better. Just recently, Churchill Downs announced that the purse for the Kentucky Derby will be at an all-time high of $5 million.

Job done. Amazing job done.

All of this progress at Churchill Downs is due to a dedication and commitment to providing a class facility, with a class product that is supported by both on- and off-track racing handle, and the addition of sports betting and Historic Horse Racing venues. In Louisville alone, Churchill Downs has spent nearly a billion dollars in improvements. In Kentucky alone  — with the acquisition of Ellis Park and Turfway Park and the building of a standardbred track named Oak Grove — Churchill Downs has committed and spent hundreds of millions of dollars more.

But the lynchpin of all of the flagship operation is The Kentucky Derby. The brand is one of the most recognized in all of sports, and business. The name, alone, is worth billions in dollars and centuries in creation.

The credibility of this race must never be compromised. Never. Ever.

The reputation of this race must never be tarnished. Never. Ever.

The world-wide acceptance and loyalty to the brand must never be questioned. Never. Ever.

Maintaining and enhancing this image; of this race is the most vital job of all for Carstanjen, Mudd, Anderson and Ziegler. It is also the job of every employee in the group. And, they take it seriously.

Apparently, a lot more seriously than, let’s say, John Clay, whom I like personally; or Ray Paulick, whom I do not respect professionally. Both of those cats must think it is OK to let a repeat horse drug offender — convicted in the two most important races to be held at Churchill Downs — back in the good graces. Both of those cats must think it is OK to let a guy who has had positive test results in Graded Stakes in Arkansas and California back on the grounds of Churchill Downs, for God’s sake. Both of those cats must think it is OK to let Bob Baffert — who somehow was the beneficiary of the California Racing Board’s decision to not reveal a positive test for Justify in the Santa Anita Derby until it was Preakness Stakes time — to race again in the Kentucky Derby.

You do know that a person who runs a horse in a race with a drug overage is cheating the other owners and participants in the same race, don’t you?

You do know that a person who allows a horse in a  race with a drug overage is cheating the bettors, who have bet against that particular horse, don’t you?

You do know that a person who continues to repeat the same offenses in multiple jurisdictions over a long period of time and apparently has shown no remorse or done anything addition to prevent it from happening again is likely to make the same mistakes again in the future, don’t you?

You do know that a person who attends the magnificent event and then finds out later that the winner of the event came back with a positive test result is being cheated out of a lifetime memory and is now left with a tarnished one, don’t you?

You do know that the world-wide audience watching and celebrating this grand event expects the race to be clean, fair, equitable, and without blemish, don’t you.

It’s amazing that some media types — who have longed harped on the value of drug testing and stomped both foot and fist demanding more oversight to clean up racing and eliminate the cheaters — are now advocating leniency for one of the game’s most notorious violators.

I thought this was one of the reasons that the federal government came up with HISA. This was going to be the new, world-wide oversight group to demand that clean races are conducted at every level — including the highest.

Where is HISA? Where is there commitment?

I thought this was one of the reasons that Ray Paulick drove his own car to Pennsylvania and watched hours of testimony in cases of corruption and cheating there? Supposedly, he was a man who supported getting rid of Lasix and running only on hay, oats and water. I guess you can add whatever Baffert plans to do next to that list, as well.

Where is that commitment to purity?

I thought this was one of the reasons that the HBPA demanded split samples and due process to ensure that credibility and fairness?

Where is the HBPA?

None of them have come forward to protect the integrity of the Kentucky Derby, along with Churchill Downs.

Bob Baffert got his split sample. He got his due process. He filed lawsuit after lawsuit demanding that his name and horse be cleared in all instances.

When all was said and done and Baffert announced in January he was dropping all of his existing lawsuits against Churchill Downs and their staff, we found out this:

Medina Spirit’s positive test was not a result of a guy pissing in the stall this time.

It wasn’t caused by a delivery of bad and contaminated hay this time.

It wasn’t the contention that his assistant trainer was wearing a pain patch this time.

It wasn’t the claim that his groom had been sick and was taking medication this time.

He had exhausted all those excuses in the past for the reason his homework was chewed up and his horses had tested positive.

This time he blamed it all on a veterinarian friend and a supposed tube of ass cream. Ass cream. Are you kidding me.

Bob Baffert lost all of his arguments. Bob Baffert lost all of his chances.

Thank God, Churchill Downs and its’ team of advisors, supervisors and care-takers have suspended the offender and made him stand accountable for the first time in history.

Call them petty, if you want.

Call them mean-spirited and callous, if you will.

But call them right. They are doing exactly what they are paid to do. And, in my view, they should extend the ban to forever.

Their job is to protect and enhance the name; the brand; the credibility and standing of the greatest race of all time. A race that the industry cannot afford to be tarnished. In any way.

That’s a little more important than feeding the ego of Bob Baffert, who makes time to play nice with the media types, and his wealthy, yet incredulous owners.

That’s a little more important than deciding to forgive and forget and allow a convicted cheater, who was found to have violated the drug allowances in Kentucky yet again, to have another chance to soil again.

The people who are petty in this case, indeed, are the ones that have nothing invested; nothing at risk; nothing to lose and pointing a literary finger at the leaders of Churchill Downs just to appease a cheat. Just to create controversy on the eves of the 150th Kentucky Derby.

Simply put:

Bob Baffert doesn’t deserve to be there. He lost the privilege to be there. He either knowingly or accidentally cheated. He got caught. He lost. The owners who want to “stick with” him, have chosen to lose, too.

The race shall go on. In style. In history-making excellence.

To argue otherwise is petty.

Now, Mr. Clay and Mr. Paulick…you are petty.

IMO, Churchill Downs Should Consider Banning Attorney Clark Brewster, Too…

And, just for good measure, I think Churchill Downs should suspend Clark Brewster, the unabashed attorney for Bob Baffert and part owner of a potential Kentucky Derby horse in Track Phantom, who recently won the Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and is now on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby.”

Just for manure and giggles.