Triple Crown and Kentucky Derby preps lacking some luster!

(Photo: Horse racing might be coming year-round to Pleasanton)

While watching the San Felipe – a Kentucky Derby prep race – on Sunday, March 3 at Santa Anita, one thought kept going through my mind – sad and pathetic.

In the end it was only four horses running in what used to be one of the top mid-level Kentucky Derby prep races in the country, but it has now been reduced to an almost “who cares” race.

I am a huge West Coast horse guy and took pride each year that the road to the Derby often went through California.

It’s not that way right now.

In addition to the embarrassing size of the field, factor in two of the four horses are trained by Bob Baffert, meaning they were ineligible to earn Derby prep points.

Baffert is still banned from having horses run in the Kentucky Derby from the issues surrounding the 2021 Medina Spirit win, where the horse was later disqualified for a medication violation.

Since then, Churchill Downs has banned Baffert horses from running at the track, which in turn includes the Kentucky Derby. Baffert is allowed to run horses in Maryland, a state where the Preakness is run, so Baffert is allowed to run horses in the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Basically, Baffert has one of the best stables of 3-year-olds in the country, meaning he will show up loaded and most likely ruin any chance of a Triple Crown by winning the Preakness.

It is killing interest in the trio of races.

The Derby will still be the Kentucky Derby and it will be big. So much of what makes the Derby an event, is the amount of people interested in the race that know little about horse racing.

Whether it’s at Churchill in person, at off-track betting centers around the country, casino sport books, or at the numerous private parties that take place every first Saturday in May, there will be parties, and they will be big.

Most of these people don’t know Bob Baffert from Bob Hope, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a party.

But for people inside the industry or people in the know in the horse racing world, the Triple Crown series has been greatly diminished as a premier series.

I am tired of taking sides in the Churchill Downs vs. Baffert battle. It needs to be ended. Baffert has served suspension time and for the sake of racing as a sport, he should be allowed back in at Churchill.

It is a time where California horse racing is suffering. Although there appears to be good news coming out of Northern California to keep racing year-round in the northern half of the state (we should know more on that is a couple of weeks), having four horses run in the second-best, California Kentucky Derby prep race is an embarrassment.

I think both Churchill Downs and the Baffert camp can claim some type of victory. Churchill will have kept Baffert from running in three Kentucky Derby’s, while Baffert will have blown up three Triple Crown campaigns.

In the past couple years, owners were able to transfer Baffert horses to other barns to be eligible to run in the Derby, but none of those horses won the race.

Wave the white flags, get Baffert’s horses back in Kentucky. Horse racing needs it, the people in the horse racing industry need it for the sport to grow, and we need it!

By Dennis Miller