Does Bob Baffert have a horse in the Kentucky Derby? Controversial trainer fighting 2021 suspension

Polarizing horse racing trainer Bob Baffert became synonymous with the Kentucky Derby in the late 2010s and early 2020s, adding wins in 2015, 2018, 2020, and 2021 (briefly) to a track record that already included three victories in the iconic race.

Two of Baffert’s Kentucky Derby wins marked the start of Triple Crown runs, as both Triple Crown winners of the 21st century (American Pharoah, Justify) were trained by him. Medina Spirit’s win in 2021 initially marked the seventh Kentucky Derby victory for Baffert, but the win — which was later stripped — was the start of a long battle for Baffert just to get back to Churchill Downs.

Baffert was banished from the track in 2022 and 2023, unable to enter a horse into the Kentucky Derby despite his dominance of the event in recent years.

Here’s a look at Baffert’s Kentucky Derby status in 2024 as the race approaches.

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Does Bob Baffert have a horse in the Kentucky Derby?

Baffert does not have a horse in the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby. His two-year suspension from Churchill Downs was extended through 2024, meaning he can’t enter any horses into the race.

That means Muth, who has four wins in six career races, won’t compete at Churchill Downs. Muth would have ranked among the favorites in the race, but the Preakness is looking like it will instead be the 3-year-old horse’s Triple Crown debut.

First-time winners took over the Kentucky Derby after Baffert’s suspension went into effect. Trainer Eric Reed won his first Triple Crown race when Rich Strike stunningly won the 2022 Kentucky Derby, and Gustavo Delgado did the same when Mage captured the victory in 2023.

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Muth would have given Baffert a realistic chance of getting back to the top at Churchill Downs, but he will have to wait at least one more year to have a chance at his seventh Kentucky Derby win. Muth, meanwhile, won’t be able to compete for the Triple Crown even if he’s able to compete in the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

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Why is Bob Baffert suspended?

Baffert was initially suspended from Churchill Downs for two years in 2021 after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a drug test following the race. Medina Spirit was later disqualified, and Baffert was handed a heavy punishment.

Baffert fought the ban for much of the past two years, but his legal battles were unsuccessful. Churchill Downs then extended the ban in July 2023, keeping Baffert out of the Kentucky Derby through 2024. Churchill Downs explained that Baffert’s suspension was extended due to “continued concerns regarding the threat to the safety and integrity of racing he poses to CDI-owned racetracks.”

The legal battle continued into 2024, as Baffert petitioned for a temporary injunction to allow horses he trained into the Kentucky Derby, but the request was denied on April 18. 

Baffert was also suspended from the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes as a result of Medina Spirit’s failed test, but he was reinstated ahead of the respective 2023 races. Baffert wasted no time getting back to the top at the Preakness, as he won with National Treasure a year ago. 

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