The Breeders’ Cup trustees have decided that embattled trainer Bob Baffert will be permitted to run his horses in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup races at Del Mar. The potential public-relations damage to horse racing is huge.

Mr. Baffert has the highest name recognition in American horse racing and is arguably the most successful trainer in the history of the sport in the United States.  He is the all-time leading money-winning trainer in Breeders’ Cup races.

Precisely because of his singular accomplishments, his celebrity, and the notoriety surrounding him over his trainee Medina Spirit testing positive for a banned substance in the Kentucky Derby, the worst outcome at the Breeders’ Cup championships would be for the colt to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  The second worst result would be for Mr. Baffert to train the winner of one or more of the feature races on the Breeders’ Cup undercard.

A Baffert win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic would be prime-time fodder for social media.  It would be like having one of the retired steroid-enabled home-run sluggers in Major League Baseball front and center at a World Series trophy presentation.

The announcers on the Breeders’ Cup Friday and Saturday telecasts will have to address Mr. Baffert’s history of having entries test positive for forbidden raceday medications, with the most infamous cases being Triple Crown winner Justify in the 2018 Santa Anita Derby and Medina Spirit.  And the “bad optics” for horse racing will be exacerbated each and every time Mr. Baffert shows up for a nationally televised presentation in the Del Mar winners circle. 

With the Medina Spirit Kentucky Derby dispute still unresolved (and a NYRA disciplinary hearing scheduled for Mr. Baffert in early 2022), it would be best for the image of American horse racing if Mr. Baffert turned his horses over to another trainer for the Breeders’ Cup races.  That is highly unlikely, so the next best denouement is for them to lose.

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