Baffert switches 4 Kentucky Derby hopefuls to other trainers
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — Bob Baffert has transferred four of his promising 3-year-old colts to other trainers, which will allow them to earn qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby while the Hall of Fame trainer appeals his 90-day suspension.
Baffert on Thursday transferred Messier, Doppelganger and McLaren Vale to trainer Tim Yakteen, who is based at Santa Anita. Blackadder was sent to Kentucky to train under Rodolphe Brisset. All four colts are owned by SF Racing LLC and others.
“We salute Bob for making the tough but necessary decision that will allow them to prove themselves as top talents in racing this year,” said Tom Ryan of SF Racing LLC.
The moves came four days after a Kentucky judge denied Baffert’s request to stay his 90-day suspension but delayed it until April 4 to allow his attorneys to seek emergency relief through the state’s Court of Appeals.
Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards last month suspended Baffert for 90 days, fined him $7,500, and disqualified Medina Spirit for having the corticosteroid betamethasone in his system when he won the Kentucky Derby last year. Baffert’s suspension was originally set to begin March 8.
Baffert’s attorneys said they would immediately appeal to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
“Churchill has imposed unprecedented unilateral demands and restrictions regarding participation of these horses,” said Clark Brewster, Baffert’s attorney. “Legal remedies on Bob’s behalf may not be finalized for several months. Therefore, the transfer of training from Bob to Mr. Yakteen will mitigate the losses — at least as they relate to these four horses — during the pendency of the Administrative Agency and Court proceedings.”
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stated in its original ruling that entry of all horses owned or trained by Baffert is denied pending transfer to “persons acceptable to the stewards.” It was not immediately clear who the stewards would deem acceptable.
Yakteen twice worked as an assistant under Baffert, as well as the late Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham, before opening his own stable. He has never had a starter in the Kentucky Derby.
Brisset, a 34-year-old Frenchman, works out of Kentucky and Florida. He spent 11 years as an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Brisset has yet to have a Derby starter.
Messier won the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 6. Doppelganger finished second and McLaren Vale was third in the San Felipe Stakes on March 5. Blackadder won the El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 12 at Golden Gate Fields, earning an automatic berth to the Preakness on May 21.
At the time, none of the colts earned qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby on May 7 because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. He is suing CDI in federal court.
Messier is being pointed toward the Santa Anita Derby on April 9. Doppelganger is likely for the Arkansas Derby on April 2. Blackadder is expected to run in an East Coast prep for the Kentucky Derby. The biggest points offerings are coming up over the next month.
“The most important thing to me is that Messier, Doppelganger, McLaren Vale, and Blackadder — some of the top talent in racing this year — are able to compete,” Baffert said in a statement. “I encouraged the owners to move them, not only because it is best for these horses and their future in racing but also for fans of the sport who are excited to watch them run. I know that they are in good hands training with Tim and Rudy, and I look forward to cheering them on.”
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