Bob Baffert Could Make Horse Racing Return at Monmouth Park Haskell

Horse trainer Bob Baffert can return to the sport that he’s become the face of effective Sunday, July 3.

Bob Baffert suspension horse racing odds betting
Bob Baffert suspension horse racing odds betting
Bob Baffert concludes his 90-day suspension from horse racing this weekend. Officials at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park hope the famed trainer makes his return to its Haskell Stakes in late July. (Image: USA TODAY Sports)

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) earlier this year suspended Baffert for 90 days after Medina Spirit, the three-year-old colt who won the 2021 Kentucky Derby, tested positive for betamethasone after the race. Betamethasone is a banned steroid.

Baffert’s 90-day sanction from horse racing prohibited him from participating in the sport in any of the 38 states that conduct live racing. Churchill Downs Inc., which owns and operates the Kentucky Derby racetrack, took things much further by suspending Baffert from all of its races through its 2023 Spring Meet.

“Reckless practices and substance violations that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company, we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated,” said Bill Carstanjen, Churchill Downs Inc. CEO. “Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby.”

Along with being banned from the sport that has made him a household name, Baffert was fined $7,500, and Medina Spirit was stripped of his Kentucky Derby win. Medina Spirit collapsed and died in December 2021 after a workout. The case of death was a suspected heart attack.

Monmouth Park Return

Horse racing has benefited from the expansion of legal sports betting nationwide. That’s following the US Supreme Court’s May 2018 decision that concluded such gambling is a state’s right to determine its legal status — not the federal government’s.

Sports gambling has been good for the equine industry by various means, including some states allocating sports betting taxes for horsemen. The sport is also seeing renewed interest after gaming regulators in several states have agreed to allow fixed odds on horse races.

With Baffert’s suspension concluding this weekend, the two-time Triple Crown winner (2015 American Pharoah, 2018 Justify) could return to Monmouth Park for the track’s annual Haskell Stakes on July 23. Baffert has won the Haskell nine times, most recently in 2020 with Authentic.

I get back to training on Sunday. I will know more by Monday. I haven’t seen horses for 90 days,” Baffert told Horse Racing Nation regarding the Haskell.

Monmouth Park’s Dennis Drazin, chair and CEO of Darby Development, which operates the New Jersey track, is a longtime friend to Baffert. Drazin hopes Baffert decides to enter the Haskell.

“Bob Baffert has been a central piece of making the Haskell what it is today and has always supported Monmouth Park, and once his suspension ends, he is welcome to come to Monmouth Park and participate in any of our races that he wishes,” Drazin told the Asbury Park Press.

Sports Betting Fight Origin

Regulated sports betting might not be operational in the more than 30 states that have legalized such gambling if it were not for Drazin. The Monmouth Park boss helped spearhead New Jersey’s legal challenge of the federal prohibition back in 2016.

Drazin argued that the federal law — the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) — banning states from deciding the legality of sports betting was costing Monmouth Park tens of millions of dollars in lost sports betting revenue.

New Jersey voters approved regulating gambling on sports in 2011 through a ballot referendum. Then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) signed a sports betting bill into law three years later in 2014. But PASPA had superseded the state law, keeping the activity illegal.

The Supreme Court eventually overturned PASPA and gave sports betting rights back to the states.

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