The Kentucky Derby 2023 is edging ever closer, but the race comes with only more confusion regarding what is happening with the Bob Baffert runners. The Hall of Famer was banned from making entries to the opening race of the Triple Crown following a failed drug test recorded by 2021 winner Medina Spirit.
However, the two-year ban is something that the six-time winning trainer has been fighting furiously for much of the past 12 months. Regardless, we are still nowhere nearer to finding out what that could mean for the race at Churchill Downs this May. Will we still see Baffert among the contenders on the 2023 Kentucky Derby odds?
What’s Currently Happening?
The ban imposed on Baffert is something that the trainer has been fighting in the courts for much of the past two years. However, it has hit the news again over the past two weeks, as the Hall of Famer is making one final bid to enable entries to be made this year.
Baffert is seeking a temporary injunction to lift his ban for the upcoming Spring Meet. As you could guess, that Spring Meet is when the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks will be staged.
The hearing lasted for four hours, and was extended earlier this week, with Baffert set to appear as a witness in his final attempt to claim a seventh Derby win in 2023. The 2023 Derby is the final one that Baffert will miss following the two-year ban imposed by Churchill Downs in June 2021. But, with a number of leading chances for the race this year, Baffert is keen to land a historic win in the race.
What Will Be The Reaction?
The ban imposed on Baffert by Churchill Downs in 2021 was welcomed by his fellow trainers and fans of the sport alike, as it showed that doping in the sport wasn’t something that was going to be tolerated. Therefore, if a judge orders that Baffert is able to run his contenders this year, then the sport could be left with an egg on its face if one of the many Baffert runners ends up landing a victory at Churchill Downs.
However, this is really a last chance saloon for the trainer, as it has been reported that a final decision on the runners that he would like the point in the direction of the Derby will need to be made on February 28. This would enable any contender heading to a new yard an opportunity to pick up points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and book their spot in the famous race.
What Happened Last Year?
Of course, this isn’t the first year that Baffert has been banned from entering horses to the famous race at Churchill Downs. The race last year, which was won by 81/1 outsider Rich Strike, was the first year in which Baffert was banned from making official declarations and earning the required points on the road to the Derby.
If the decision is made that the Hall of Famer is once again not able to official declare horses from his yard, then we will likely see the same situation as 12 months ago. On that occasion, Derby contenders were transferred to different yards, which were often led by former Baffert staff. For example, Tim Yakteen headed the two most likely formerly trained Baffert runners- Messier and Taiba.
The latter was considered to be one of the leading chances to win the race after landing victory in the Santa Anita Derby. However, he could only finish 12th, with Messier taking 15th. Any move to a new yard is likely to have an impact on the horses currently in training with Baffert, which would be a concern to those that have previously supported Arabian Knight, Cave Rock, and Newgate in the ante-post Kentucky Derby betting markets.