It was hiding in plain sight nearly a third of the way through 1,660 words of fine print on the Triple Crown nomination form. Now it looms as a deadline in five weeks for trainer Bob Baffert to move his horses in order to make them eligible for Kentucky Derby 2023.
“Horses under the care of any suspended trainer or affiliates may be transferred to a non-suspended trainer and become eligible for earning points on a forward-looking basis so long as the transfer is complete by February 28, 2023.”
That sentence is part of the Derby section of the five-page form. Posted at least two weeks ago, it was reported Sunday by David Grening of Daily Racing Form.
The deadline will come at the same time as early $600 nominations are due for the Triple Crown. It would appear to force Baffert and his client owners to make early decisions on his deep roster of 3-year-olds, something they were able to put off last year until early April. That was when two colts were moved temporarily to Baffert’s former assistant Tim Yakteen. Taiba and Messier finished one-two in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, where they finished 12th and 15th, respectively.
Baffert is in the final months of a two-year suspension that runs through the May 6 running of America’s biggest race. It was brought by Churchill Downs Inc. after the late Medina Spirit failed a drug test after finishing first in the 2021 Derby.
The betamethasone positive has been at the root of an ongoing legal fight in which Baffert is trying to clear his name, restore Medina Spirit’s victory and become eligible to take part in this year’s Derby. Baffert and his lawyers last week asked a federal court in Kentucky to issue a preliminary injunction against CDI. That request will get a hearing Feb. 2.
There appeared to be no rules on the Triple Crown form that would keep Baffert from entering horses in his name in the Preakness on May 20 or the Belmont Stakes on June 10.
The New York Racing Association’s separate, one-year suspension of Baffert from Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga expires at the end of the day Wednesday. “Repeated medication violations” were the stated reason for the suspension, even though there were not any in New York.