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HomeHorse RacingChurchill extends Baffert ban through '24 - here's why

Churchill extends Baffert ban through ’24 – here’s why

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Churchill Downs, Inc. extends Baffert suspension through 2024 – why?

Some articles, in my mind, write themselves. This is one of them.

Churchill Downs announced on Monday that Bob Baffert would have his current suspension extended through the end of 2024, meaning his horses cannot race at any of the CDI-owned tracks (this includes Churchill Downs, Ellis Park, and Turfway Park in KY; and Fair Grounds in New Orleans, amongst others). This, of course, includes the 2024 version of the Kentucky Derby – Derby 150.

This, despite two years with no positive drug tests from the massive Baffert operation. This cannot be stressed enough in this conversation.

When we covered the Derby this year, one thing stood out above all others: the lack of signage and marketing around this year’s Kentucky Derby, number 149. The race that had plenty of signage and ads? Derby 150. When a family member of mine called inquiring about Derby 149 tickets, they were encouraged to buy a license to lock up tickets for next spring. Needless to say, they’re going to try to make it the biggest ever – following up on 149, which had the biggest Derby day handle in the race’s long history.

And, to me, this is all it is – Churchill Downs wants the focus of the day to be on the race, and not on Bob Baffert. If Baffert were to return off a two year ban to Derby 150, the coverage would be about him, and deservedly so: he has won the most KY Derbies of all time.

Is it personal at this point? Yes. Could Baffert likely have averted this by not doing his post-Derby 147 media tour where he blamed cancel culture and everyone else? Of course.

But that’s ifs and buts, and those don’t count. The fact of the matter is he went after the Derby – at least in Churchill Downs’ mind – and that’s a sin you cannot commit. Very few places in America are built for one week a year: Churchill Downs, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, some NASCAR tracks, etc. That list is mega-short, and Churchill is especially built for an expensive, bucket-list type event. If they lose Derby week as a money generator, they lose a massive cog in the money making machine that is Churchill Downs Incorporated.

I’m of the opinion they’re best off having Baffert at Derby 150; I think his presence raises the visibility of the race, and adds to its intrigue. And by intrigue, I mean total dollars wagered on the Derby card.

Don’t mess with the Derby, kids. CDI is perfectly happy taking its ball and going home.

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