Met Mile and Belmont Stakes Notes

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Zedan Racing Stables’ multiple Grade 1-winner Taiba will skip Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap, at Belmont Park.

Taiba worked seven-furlongs in 1:27.40 Friday at Santa Anita in what was to be his final prep for the one-turn mile for 3-year-olds and up which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in November at the Arcadia, California oval. He has not raced since an eighth-place effort in the Group 1 Saudi Cup on February 25 at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.

“His works have been good, but not like I’d like to see them. I just don’t think he’s ready for something like that yet,” said Baffert, who won the 2017 Metropolitan with Mor Spirit. “I’m going to wait and run him at Del Mar. He’s doing well, but not well enough for the Met Mile. To run in the Met Mile, you have to bring your ‘A’ game and I don’t think he’s quite there yet.”

The 4-year-old Gun Runner colt’s trio of Grade 1 scores came in the Santa Anita Derby last April, the Pennsylvania Derby in September at Parx and the Malibu in December at Santa Anita.

National Treasure Works for Belmont Stakes

SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay A. Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital and Catherine Donovan’s Grade 1 Preakness-winner National Treasure is slated to breeze Monday in preparation for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.

The Quality Road sophomore added blinkers and made all the running in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on May 20 with Hall of Famer John Velazquez up, outdueling Blazing Sevens for a narrow head score with Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner Mage settling for third.

Baffert said he is hopeful that National Treasure will appreciate the added ground in the 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion.”

“You never know until they do it,” Baffert said. “He handled the Preakness distance and it wasn’t a problem for him. We’re all in the same boat. None of them probably want to go that far, but if they don’t go too fast, they can do it.

“I just want him to show up like he did at Pimlico,” added Baffert. “He’s never really run a bad race. All his races have been competitive. He’s a pretty consistent horse. He’s happy and he’ll breeze tomorrow and hopefully everything goes well.”

Baffert, who previously won the Belmont Stakes with Point Given [2001] and Triple Crown-winners American Pharoah [2015] and Justify [2018], will be in attendance Saturday for the final leg of the Triple Crown.

National Treasure graduated at first asking in September at Del Mar and hit the board in a trio of stakes in the Grade 1 American Pharoah [2nd] in October at Santa Anita, the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile [3rd] in November at Keeneland and the Grade 3 Sham [3rd] in January at Santa Anita. He finished fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in April ahead of his Preakness coup.

Zedan Racing Stables’ graded-stakes placed Arabian Lion rolled to a frontrunning four-length score last out under Velazquez in the 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard.

While initially under consideration for the Belmont Stakes, Baffert decided to point the Justify chestnut to the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores.

“On the turnback, sometimes they run well. We’ll send him back to two turns again after that,” Baffert said.

Arabian Lion, who boasts a ledger of 6-2-2-0 for purse earnings of $217,600, entered the Sir Barton from a pacesetting runner-up effort to First Mission in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Lexington on April 15 at Keeneland.

Undercard of Belmont Stakes 2023

Baffert will also enter multiple graded-stakes placed Fort Bragg in the Woody Stephens. The Tapit colt, who was third in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity in December, finished second last out in the Grade 2 Pat Day Mile a neck back of returning rival General Jim on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs.

“He’s still improving and filling out,” Baffert said. “He’s maturing and there’s a lot of room to improve.”

Baffert previously won the Woody Stephens with Bayern [2014] and American Anthem [2017].

The Belmont Stakes headlines the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival that features a total of 16 stakes events from Thursday, June 8 through Saturday, June 10. For additional information on the 2023 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and details on hospitality offerings, ticket packages and pricing, visit BelmontStakes.com.

Source: NYRA.com

KY Derby Champ Medina Spirit Dies of Heart Attack. Adds to Long Ugly History for Bob Baffert

Kentucky Derby ‘winner’ Medina Spirit died of an apparent heart attack after a workout this morning in Southern California.  Trained by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, Medina Spirit was a game second in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic last month at Del Mar. This is not the first Bob Baffert horse to mysteriously die.  Let’s look back at a San Diego newspaper report from November, 2013:

Seven of Baffert’s horses died of sudden death between Nov. 4, 2011 and March 14, 2013. Five died in training, two in racing. Five died of cardio-pulmonary failure. Arthur said the amount of deaths “is undeniably exceptional,” but the “cases were not atypical sudden deaths associated with racing and training.” He called the cluster of horse deaths in Baffert’s barn, “extremely abnormal,” and later said, “There is something wrong here.” But the investigation didn’t show what was wrong, he said.

More from the San Diego Tribune on trainer Bob Baffert’s history with unusual heart attack deaths.

Other news: Baffert horses banned from Kentucky Derby

 

New Horse Racing Chief calls Sport’s Clean-up ‘steep climb’

Washington DCThe chairman of horse racing’s future governing body said the failed drug test of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit shows the need for a uniform set of rules and penalties in place of the sport’s current patchwork system.

In his first public comments since being appointed chairman of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s board, Charlie Scheeler said Wednesday that Medina Spirit’s case is instructive for how the sport should be run going forward.

The HISA is set to take effect in July 2022, although early work is underway to “try to make a sport which is safer, which is clean, and which is fair to those who we govern,” Scheeler said on Zoom. “It’s quite a steep climb.”

Scheeler, a retired partner at a Baltimore law firm, worked as lead counsel to former Sen. George Mitchell’s independent investigation of performance-enhancing substance use in Major League Baseball, as well as a monitor of Penn State’s compliance with the NCAA and Big Ten on athletics integrity.

He has turned his attention to cleaning up horse racing, which is mired in its latest drug-related scandal.

Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone after the Kentucky Derby on May 1, and split-sample test results announced Wednesday by the attorney for trainer Bob Baffert confirmed the drug’s presence. Soon after, Churchill Downs announced it was suspending Baffert for two years through spring 2023, prohibiting the seven-time Derby winner from stabling or racing at tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc…

Eight will get in gate for Belmont Stakes without Trainer Bob Baffert

Belmont Park horse racingTrainer Doug O’Neill knows this isn’t horse racing’s shining moment. Medina Spirit, who won the Kentucky Derby only to fail a drug test, won’t line up at the starting gate at the Belmont States on Saturday. And Medina Spirit’s trainer, Bob Baffert, the sport’s biggest name, won’t have a horse in the race, since he’s temporarily suspended from New York racetracks.

There’s just no escaping any of that — Baffert has even been lampooned on “Saturday Night Live” — but there is, at least, a chance to course correct. O’Neill, whose horse, Hot Rod Charlie, is the third betting choice in a field of eight at 7-2 morning line odds and drew the No. 4 post position at the Belmont Stakes draw on Tuesday morning, could be one of the keys to a changing script. Well, at least for a day.

“I do think this sport could use some more stories of the connections between horse and human and how, like in the Derby, there were like 250 people there all because of Charlie,” O’Neill said. “Charlie brought all these people together, so you know horses are amazing. They’re mirrors of us and we said it all the time, if you give them love, they gave it right back to you. I think these are the stories that we don’t really talk about a lot.”

The 2-1 favorite, Essential Quality, got the second post position, and…

Top Horseplayer Sat Out the Preakness. Here’s Why

Op-ed: Horse racing needs to reckon with its drug problemHorses receive extraordinary care while on track. But it is well past time the industry puts increased effort into making sure that when horses run races, they run with no illegal drugs. That means allowing HISA to take over, begin investigations and increase drug-testing. And when someone gets caught doping and cheating, rather than getting a slap on the wrist or a few hundred dollars in fines, they should banned from the sport.

I’ve been a fan, a bettor, a supporter and an advocate of horse racing for more than 40 years. Because the horse racing industry as a whole has turned the other cheek with respect to drug cheats, I’m ready to turn the page on horse racing — unless the leaders of the sport do what baseball and cycling have done to their cheating participants. They must punish the cheaters, and restore integrity and safety to the game…

Baffert and American Pharoah shift focus to Belmont, Triple Crown

Triple Crown NBC Bob Baffert worried about his horse in the days after the Kentucky Derby. American Pharoah had won, yes, but he hadn’t seemed himself on race day. The madhouse scene at Churchill Downs had worn him out. So it was left to a record Preakness crowd to see the true majesty of Baffert’s champion as he rumbled…