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Bob Baffert moves his top Kentucky Derby horses to former assistant Tim Yakteen

A man stands in his barn with a horse.
Tim Yakteen stands in his barn with Tabia at Santa Anita Park on April 25, 2022, in Arcadia.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)
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Trainer Bob Baffert moved the remainder of his top Kentucky Derby horses to former assistant Tim Yakteen on Sunday including Arabian Knight, winner of the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn and the horse given the best chance of winning the Derby, according to future odds.

Baffert said he hopes the horses will move back to his barn after the Derby and before the Preakness Stakes.

In addition to Arabian Knight, on Sunday he moved National Treasure, Fort Bragg and Mr. Fisk. It was previously telegraphed that some of Baffert’s horses would move to Yakteen when the Gotham nominations came out and former Baffert trainees Arabian Lion, Carmel Road and Hejazi had Yakteen listed as the trainer. The race is Saturday at Aqueduct in New York.

Fort Warren was moved earlier to Brittney Russell and nominated for the Gotham, and Harlocap, who finished sixth in the Risen Star, was placed with Steve Asmussen.

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Reincarnate was also moved to Yakteen and finished third in the Rebel Stakes on Saturday.

Yakteen now has seven horses nominated for Saturday’s San Felipe at Santa Anita including two of his own, Kangaroo Court and Practical Move. But Yakteen told the Times he was going to run five at Santa Anita: Practical Move (jockey Ramon Vazquez), Hejazi (Mike Smith), Mr. Fisk (Frankie Dettori), Fort Bragg (Juan Hernandez) and National Treasure (John Velazquez). He plans to run Carmel Road in the Gotham.

Arabian Knight is back at Santa Anita and his next race could be either the Arkansas Derby or Santa Anita Derby.

The moves were precipitated by a two-year ban that Churchill Downs had placed on Baffert after Medina Spirit tested positive for a legal medication, but not legal on race day, after winning the 2021 Derby. The horse was subsequently disqualified although that is still in litigation.

In order to qualify for the Derby, you have to accumulate points in prep races. However, Baffert is ineligible to receive points, which are vacated when his horses place in the top five in designated races. Most of the major preps start this weekend, which is why Baffert, after consulting with owners, had to move his horses.

Panthalassa gives Japan its first win in the $20-million Saudi Cup. Bob Baffert-trained Country Grammer finishes second again. Taiba finishes in eighth.

Feb. 25, 2023

Baffert still has until Tuesday to move more horses to Yakteen or other trainers. That date was set by Churchill Downs as the last day you could switch trainers for a horse and be eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby.

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“I was trying to set up as smooth a transition as I could for the horses and the owners and still allow them to get Derby points,” Baffert said.

“It’s hard on the grooms that have been working with the horses for a year or so. We’ve all been around these horses and in some cases we found them [at sales]. Our whole program is based on 3-year-olds and the Kentucky Derby. It’s tough to give them up. We thought we had a god chance to get an injunction, but we didn’t. So, we‘ve got to move forward, we’ve got to move on.”

Yakteen received two of Baffert’s Derby horses last year, Taiba and Messier, whom he qualified by finishing first and second in the Santa Anita Derby. They weren’t as lucky in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 12th and 15th.

Yakteen worked with Baffert both in quarter horses and thoroughbreds. His last stint started in 1997, where he stayed for seven years before going off on his own as a trainer.

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