Bob Baffert’s horses allowed to run at Breeders’ Cup under heightened protocols

Bob Baffert looks out from his barn at Churchill Downs in May 2019.
Bob Baffert will be allowed to run his horses in this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, but the thoroughbreds will have to undergo enhanced testing and protocols.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Trainer Bob Baffert will be allowed to enter and run horses in this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar but with enhanced testing and protocols. The Breeders’ Cup made the announcement Sunday after holding a special review, although the group refused to give any details on when the review was held, all those involved or what was the vote of the board of directors to allow Baffert to run.

Under the terms of the agreement between the Breeders’ Cup and the Hall of Fame trainer, his horses will undergo additional out-of-competition testing for medications, additional tests the week of the Nov. 5-6 event, increased veterinarian and security checks, and 24-hour security surveillance. Baffert will also pay for all the added measures.

Baffert has been under fire from two racing organizations since Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, a medication that can be dispensed but not on race day, after winning the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has yet to hold a hearing on Baffert, but Churchill Downs, home of the Derby, has suspended him for two years. Baffert has not yet filed suit to try to overturn the Churchill Downs suspension.

Bob Baffert has cultivated the story of a horse racing dynasty built from humble roots. He now faces scrutiny about short cuts he’s alleged to have taken.

Medina Spirit was Baffert’s fifth medication violation in just over a year. Two of those were partially overturned because it was determined contamination was the cause of the positives. Baffert still had to pay a fine.


The New York Racing Assn. also tried to suspend the trainer, but its ruling was temporarily overturned by a federal judge. Baffert will have a hearing Jan. 24 in New York. None of the medication violations occurred in New York. Santa Anita, Del Mar and the California Horse Racing Board have not issued any restrictions on Baffert.

“Working with horses and competing in World Championships is a privilege, and medication restrictions and testing protocols are in place for a reason,” the Breeders’ Cup said in a news release. “The Breeders’ Cup expects Mr. Baffert’s complete cooperation in ensuring that every horse under his care is in full compliance with all medication and safety standards.”

Private Mission wins the Zenyatta Stakes for fillies and mares, giving Bob Baffert three winners in the first three days of the Santa Anita Fall Meeting.

Baffert issued this statement, by text, to the Times that read: “I share the values of the Breeders’ Cup Board and the principles which underlie the World Championships of our great sport. I welcomed the good-faith inquiry of the Breeders’ Cup Racing Committee and we transparently answered their requests, through documentation and in-person meetings. I invite any pre-race scrutiny and testing for my Breeders’ Cup entrants. I compliment the horsemen on the Breeders’ Cup Board that selflessly provided their time, diligence and integrity in reviewing the true facts and not acting on a false rush to judgment.”

Among the horses Baffert may bring to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup include Medina Spirit in the Classic, Private Mission in the Distaff, Corniche in the Juvenile, Grace Adler in the Juvenile Fillies, and Gamine in the Filly and Mare Sprint.