(Bob Baffert and Medina Spirit the day after the 2021 Kentucky Derby / Photos by Holly M. Smith)
Here we go again…
Another week where the greatest sport on God’s Green Earth is distracted by the antics of one of its’ weakest links:
Instead of getting amped for this Saturday’s G1 Pennsylvania Derby and a showdown between some of the best 3YOs in the world, we are now left puzzled by a whacky day of strange excuses of why Medina Spirit — the center of controversy ever since testing positive following his win in the 2021 Kentucky Derby — was first entered and then declared scratched by one of our sport’s least credible sources:
Rather than discussing how Midnight Bourbon has matured from his days of barnyard antics during Derby week into a legit force on the racetrack in the afternoons, we are now trying to figure out why the #9 post position is such an awful starting spot for a man who has always contended that post position does not phase him:
While we should be chatting with the wonderful owners of Hot Rod Charlie, who have been donating a percentage of the horse’s winnings to help various and very worthy charitable organizations, we are left scratching our heads and trying to figure out if Medina Spirit is still scratching his ass and needs another round of the mysterious “ass cream” that the trainer alleges was the culprit behind the horse’s positive test result:
In a week where the racing world could benefit from a story about Hall of Fame trainer and all-around class act, Bill Mott, and the emergence of his horse, Speaker’s Corner, we are now delving into the semantics of all the perplexing reasons that were thrown out on Tuesday on why Medina Spirit was going to stay home; stay away; stay isolated; stay test free:
For just a second, let’s review Tuesday and all the quotes that were attributed to Baffert after it was first discovered that the “trainer” had flipped from his previous commitment to enter and run and had flopped into a series of strange explanations of “why not” in a matter of just a few hours.
First, according to Tim Wilkin, who first broke the story on Twitter, and published the mind-boggling rationale of the baffling Baffert, we got this:
“I don’t like the way he drew,” Baffert was quoted as saying about the No. 9 post position.
Especially when you consider what Baffert told the Parx Racetrack media team immediately after the post position draw. Which was:
“They have all the heavyweights right net to each other,” Baffert said. “Once they draw, we don’t worry about it. The break is important no matter what post they have.”
Seriously? How does the guy make this stuff up? Really? Does he think we forget? Does he think, period?
Second, according to Tim Wilkin, we got this:
“I don’t like to put them on a plane unless I feel real good about it. Medina looks good, I just don’t like the way the race was setting up. I feel part of my success is knowing when to run and doing what’s right for the horse.”
OK. At entry time, Medina was perfectly fine to put on a plane and head off to Pennsylvania and race for $1 million purse. Then, all of a sudden, he wasn’t? But I thought it was the post position? Was it the post position or not?
If not, maybe the horse should be checked out by a veterinarian on the West Coast who is associated with the California Horse Racing Board. Just to make sure that he is OK, right? Out of competition testing, maybe?
Are you kidding me? Part of Baffert’s success is, and I quote, “…doing what’s right for the horse…”
Was it right for either or both Charlaton and/or Gamine that they were exposed — some how, some way — to prohibitive race-time drugs and were subsequently disqualified for testing positive for excessive levels in Arkansas?
Was it right for Justify that he was exposed — some how, some way — to “feed” (or was it “weed?”) that was contaminated with high levels of a prohibitive drug prior to the Santa Anita Derby? Was it right that the horse got into the Kentucky Derby despite the fact that it was discovered that Justify tested positive after winning the Santa Anita Derby; should have been DQ’d; and, should not have gotten the necessary “points” to make the KY Derby field? Was it right that the California Horse Racing Board didn’t inform racing officials in other jurisdictions until it was too late?
Was it right for Gamine when it was discovered that she had tested positive for another prohibitive race-day medication after running third in the Kentucky Oaks in 2020?
Was it right for Medina Spirit when, yet another, post-race test revealed a positive result after this year’s Kentucky Derby?
All of these horses were in the ultimate care of Baffert. Is this how he shows that he “…does right by the horse…”?
Yet, there is more. Third, another tweet from Wilkin: “Private Mission, who was going to run in the Cotillion at @parxracing, is also staying in California.”
I guess the #9 post position for Medina Spirit was so damn offensive to Baffert that he decided that it may also impact his filly in another race?
The truth is this, peeps:
My daddy used to tell me all the time. “Excuses are like assholes. Everybody has one, and most of them stink.”
These excuses stink. To high heaven.
And, they make one and all start to wonder…
What’s the real damn reason Medina Spirit is not coming to Pennsylvania?
What’s the real deal, Bob?
Has the horse been “treated” with something else that may or may not cycle through the system in time? After all, we all know that one of your “secrets to success” is doing right by the horse, right?
What’s going on here?
Truth be told, doesn’t this week’s sudden reversal of decision and fate eerily remind you of the “press tour” that Baffert embarked on immediately following this year’s Kentucky Derby and the discovery that Medina Spirit had tested positive following the race.
First, Baffert said he had never heard of the medication and it had never been in his barn.
Second, Baffert claimed it was “ass cream” to clear up a skin rash and the drug in question was never injected into a joint.
Yet, no tube of “ass cream” was ever found in the barn? If so, lawyers, can we take a peek at it?
Third, Baffert’s public claim and PR spin that he was hiring a veterinarian expert to help “clean up” his barn’s operation and ensure that his team was doing everything it could to be in complete compliance with all rules and regulations of every racing jurisdiction was later discovered to be nothing more than a stunt.
The veterinarian never showed up. Nothing changed.
Just this week, it was announced that the Breeders’ Cup was meeting and discussing whether or not it should allow any horse under the care and tutelage of Bob Baffert entry into this year’s Championship Events at Del Mar.
Churchill Downs has already banned the guy from its’ grounds and entry box. Thank God.
NYRA did the same before some ill-informed and so-called “Judge” overturned the decision and forced the racing body to allow Baffert’s horses the ability to run in the Empire State. Now, NYRA is responding with hearings for both Baffert and trainer Marcus Vitali to determine if the embattled trainers have engaged in “…conduct it (NYRA) believes warrants revocation or suspension of their right to train and race horses at NYRA tracks.” Here’s hoping for another ban.
Could the Breeders’ Cup join in? Make the same call?
Bill Finley, who authors an opinion column for “The Thoroughbred Daily News” jumped into the fray and wrote that it would be “unfair” to prohibit Baffert from running his horses in this year’s Breeders’ Cup and made a series of rather faint arguments why.
Bill certainly has a right to his opinion, as flawed as it may be. But considering the news on Tuesday, I would think that the questions and concerns again outweigh any legit reason to allow this character near the sport’s biggest days.
As the past 24 hours clearly demonstrate, the man is a complete distraction, at the very least.
As the past 24 hours clearly show, the man is not capable of making a clear, concise and consistent argument — that is not full of contradiction and vague excuses — for any decision that he makes and then reverses.
As the past 24 hours prove, this sport does not need to be tainted with Baffert’s questionable behavior and/or answers any more.
His actions continue to border on either the bizarre or the buffoon. Or both. Take your pick.
For years, there have been people in our sport that have backed the baffling Baffert and contended — if not pretended — that the former Quarter Horse trainer turned Thoroughbred expert was brilliant.
And, there were some legits to the arguments.
After all, the man won big races faster and more consistently than any other man in the history of the sport.
After all, the man with the floppy hair could swoon; spin a tale; and speak to the media in a way that few trainers ever could.
After all, the man was half Hollywood and half hard boot.
He fooled us. Me included. I bought in. I bought it. Shame on me.
But you know the old saying, attributed to the great, late President Abraham Lincoln, don’t you?
“You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Time has come. Time is up.
Don’t be fooled. Any more.
Medina Spirit is not showing up in Philly this week…but, whatever the real reason is, it has nothing to do with the damn post position.