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Bob Baffert-trained Newgrange wins Sham Stakes at Santa Anita

Horse trainer Bob Baffert attends the Breeders' Cup at Del Mar in November.
Horse trainer Bob Baffert attends the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar in November. Baffert’s horses are currently ineligible to compete in the 2022 Kentucky Derby.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Trainer Bob Baffert’s vice-like grip on possible Kentucky Derby starters got a bit stronger on Saturday when Newgrange won the Grade 3 $100,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. The only problem is that Baffert is currently excluded from running at Churchill Downs, home of the Derby.

Newgrange was a classic case of the “other Baffert,” where Baffert’s second-favored horse wins the race. Newgrange is now undefeated in two races after having won the one-mile race Saturday by 2¾ lengths. John Velazquez, who has moved to Santa Anita for the winter, was the winning jockey.

Newgrange paid $7.40, $3.40 and $2.40. The Baffert-trained Rockefeller was second followed by Oviatt Class, Mackinnon and Degree of Risk.

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Recent rains threatened to put a damper on opening day at Santa Anita before Express Train’s win over Hot Rod Charlie in the San Antonio Stakes.

“He looked good,” Baffert said. “He had been training really well and working together with Rockefeller. The quality is there. … I thought Rockefeller would be a little closer. We’ll have to figure things out on where the two go from here.”

Churchill Downs has placed Baffert on a two-year ban after last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, tested positive for a legal medication that is banned on race day. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has not charged Baffert with any wrongdoing, pending additional toxicology results. Baffert’s attorneys contend that Medina Spirit was treated with an ointment for a rash and not through an inter-articular injection, which they say is how the rule was written.

Medina Spirit died after a workout on Dec. 6 after what is believed to be a cardiac event, but a necropsy will determine the cause of death.

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.

Churchill Downs has deemed that any horse trained by Baffert or a surrogate is ineligible for Kentucky Derby qualifying points. The 10 points that Newgrange earned or the four points that were won by Rockefeller for second will be vacated according to Derby rules. But, a 10-point win in January is unlikely to make any difference because the point system is weighted to horses who are performing well in March and April.

The horses Baffert trains will either need to gain eligibility through litigation or moved to other trainers if they are to run in the Derby.

There were two other points qualifying races on Saturday. Courvoisier won the $150,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct in New York. The race was run in a dense fog over a sloppy track. The colt paid $10.00 to win for trainer Kelly Breen and jockey Jose Ortiz. Dash Attack won the $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. He paid $17.40 to win for trainer Kenny McPeek and jockey David Cohen.


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