I love horse racing.

It has always been my one of my favorite sports since I was in elementary school after watching the horses live at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton.

I have been blessed to be involved in the sport as either a journalist or a publicist for the last 35 years. I have gotten to know and written about some of the greatest trainers, jockeys, and owners in the history of the sport.

I have shared handicapping seminar stages with some legendary, iconic announcers, as well as some celebrity guests in these seminars.

It has been 35 years of incredible times.

But the last 10 years have been tough as the sport seems intent on destroying itself from within.

I have opined on this subject matter numerous times and have pulled no punches, often ignoring friends’ pleas not to ruffle feathers as horse racing hierarchy is very vindictive.

I have suffered some consequences for offering my honest opinions, but never once have I regretted making one statement. The world is full of people willing to sit on their hands when it comes to controversial issues. Not me. Not when I was 25 and not now that I am 60. I must be honest – it’s who I am. It is a sport I love and always want the best for the horses and barns.

So, when I make the next statement, understand how much it pains me to write.

Horse racing is becoming the biggest joke in all of sports.

Ask the average sports fan that doesn’t follow racing what it is the signature event for horse racing. I confidently say that over 90 percent will say the Kentucky Derby.

And it is with good reason.

The first Saturday in May each year brings together the country for what is known as, “The most exciting two minutes in sports.”

Parties spring up across the country be it at simulcast centers, race tracks, or even private homes. It’s the one time of year I hear from friends around the country that never watch horse racing, and they all want to know who is going to win the Derby.

Party time for sure.

The light of the party continued to dim in 2020 when Derby winner Medina Spirit, trained by Bob Baffert, tested positive for betamethasone, a legal medication, but not legal on race day.

Here’s where the sport started shooting itself in the foot as badly as any time in the illustrious history of racing. There was immediately talk of the horse being disqualified and stripped of the win, making runner-up Mandaloun the winner.

Would Baffert, who had avoided suspension on other medication issues, be suspended. Since it is horse racings’ most treasured race, there would be a decision reached quickly, right?

Nope.

Here we are in the second week of December and there has been nothing done about the Derby. It was all pushed to the forefront of the news this week when Medina Spirit suffered a heart attack during a workout at Santa Anita Monday morning and passed away.

It got me thinking again about to where this embarrassment has progressed.

As of December 8, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) – apparently as feeble as an organization as the California Horse Racing Board when it comes to making decisions – had yet to charge Baffert with anything or stripped the Derby title from Medina Spirit.

As I have mentioned multiple times, here is where horse racing suffers most. There is no central governing body, so each organization is free to make its own ruling and decisions.

With the KHRC sitting on the sidelines still, Churchill Downs – the home of the Derby – jumped out and fired a few rounds at Baffert.

Churchill suspended Baffert for two years from running horses at Churchill Downs, thus eliminating one of the top trainers in history from running any horses in the next two Kentucky Derby’s. Yet, the KHRC having yet to decide if Baffert did anything wrong.

In addition, they announced effective September 30, points from any race in the “Road to the Derby,” the official qualifying system for the Derby, will not be awarded to any horse trained by an individual who is suspended from racing in the 2022 Kentucky Derby.

At last check, that list has all of one name on it – Baffert.

That eliminates the man who has at times dominated Kentucky Derby prep races across the country.

At first glance it would seem like owners of some of these promising 2-year-olds would move their horses to other barns with Derby hopes in their sites.

But that has not been the case across the board. In fact, Baffert has retained many talented runners. What this leaves us with is a total mockery of the Kentucky Derby.

Baffert can run his horses in a prep race, but they will not be eligible to earn any points towards a berth in the Derby. It is very easy to see a scenario where the Derby will be looked at as not having the best possible field.

It gets worse. Baffert can run his horses in the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, a race that takes place in Maryland.

How easy is it to envision the Derby winner move on to the Preakness and run into a few rested and talented Baffert horses? This would severely diminish the Kentucky Derby to the point where an asterisk should be added.

As for the Belmont Stakes, the third Triple Crown race, who knows where the New York Racing Association may land on Baffert come June. My guess is Baffert will be able to run horses, meaning he will be eligible in two-thirds of the Triple Crown.

I am not passing judgement on Baffert here – there are plenty of others in the media doing that on a regular basis. My point is the complete lack of consistency from the multiple governing bodies is making horse racing a laughing stock of professional sports.

Heck, even the state of Kentucky can’t seem to agree on what direction to take regarding the Medina Spirit testing.

One decision needs to be reached. Either Baffert is all in or he’s out. Imagine the NFL, NBA, or MLB had players suspended in certain states, but not others?

It is a sad situation that was recently brought to the forefront of media attention with the tragic passing of Medina Spirit. The horse was the only party involved that had no idea what was going on.

RIP champ, you gave plenty of racing fans some great thrills. Hopefully the sport of horse racing can figure it out to keep giving fans the thrills that past Derby winners have done for the sport.

Hopefully.

By Dennis Miller