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Maryland confirms Bob Baffert's ban from Triple Crown's Preakness

The Hall of Fame trainer has essentially been suspended from U.S. horse racing competition for the months covering the 2022 Triple Crown.
Trainer Bob Baffert at Del Mar Race Track on Nov. 6, 2021 in Del Mar, Calif.
Trainer Bob Baffert at Del Mar Race Track on Nov. 6, 2021 in Del Mar, Calif.Horsephotos / Getty Images file

Maryland horse racing regulators on Monday confirmed Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's ineligibility for the Preakness Stakes, the second of the hallowed Triple Crown races that take place each spring.

Baffert was prohibited from Kentucky races for 90 days starting April 4. All 38 racing states generally honor one a other's prohibitions, but the Maryland Racing Commission was asked specifically to consider Baffert's eligibility for the Preakness by the group Animal Wellness Action.

"Mr. Baffert will not be eligible to participate in the Preakness Stakes," wrote commission executive director J. Michael Hopkins to the nonprofit in a letter dated Monday.

The Kentucky suspension stemmed from alleged medication violations involving some of Baffert's horses, including 2021 Kentucky Derby first-place finisher Medina Spirit. The colt, which died last year, was stripped of the title after testing positive for a race-day banned substance.

The trainer, winner of 12 Triple Crown races and two rare Triple Crowns, tried unsuccessfully to challenge the suspension and extend the time before it goes into effect. A Kentucky court rejected an emergency appeal of the ban April 1.

The spring prohibition was expected to remain in effect during each of 2022's Triple Crown races, the Kentucky Derby May 7, the Preakness May 21, and the Belmont Stakes June 11. California horse racing officials said the ban would be honored in Baffert's home state, where his horses are mainstays at Santa Anita Park, Los Alamitos Race Course, and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

Bob Baffert Racing Stables, Inc. is based at Santa Anita in the city of Arcadia, east of Los Angeles.

On April 4, the New York State Gaming Commission also affirmed Baffert's prohibition from racing in its jurisdiction through early July. In a statement, the commission named Belmont Park in Nassau County, home of the Belmont Stakes, as one of the venues excluding him.

Baffert appears to have prepared for the suspension by transferring four 3-year-old colts to other trainers so they might qualify for the Kentucky Derby May 7.

"All racing jurisdictions give reciprocity to another’s suspension," Baffert's attorney, Clark Brewster, said by email Monday. "Bob clearly understands that and will abide the terms of the suspension as he seeks justice and finality in the pending proceedings." 

Baffert has mounted a federal court challenge of a separate ban by the Louisville horse racing mecca Churchill Downs. That prohibition covers the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derbies.

In a statement Monday, Animal Wellness action said it was important for Maryland horse racing officials to make a statement regarding Baffert's eligibility despite its automatic observance of suspensions in other states.

"The Maryland Racing Commission had not issued any formal statement communicating its action against Baffert as California and New York have, and the public isn’t generally aware of the custom of reciprocity," the group said.

Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, said in the statement, "We applaud the Maryland Racing Commission for taking swift and decisive action against infamous trainer Bob Baffert to protect the integrity of the 147th Preakness and more importantly, protect the horses themselves."

The 2022 Triple Crown races will be aired by NBC and streamed on Peacock, NBC Sports and the NBC Sports app. NBC News, Peacock and NBC Sports are part of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.