The horse racing industry has been rocked by a scandal that has an ongoing investigation of Kentucky Derby-winning horse Medina Spirit and trainer Bob Baffert.
What Happened: Medina Spirit won the 147th running of the Derby on May 1, finishing a half-length ahead of runner-up Mandaloun. However, the postrace drug test of Medina Spirit found 21 picograms of the steroid betamethasone, a level double the legal threshold allowed by race tracks in Kentucky.
Churchill Downs, Inc. CHDN immediately suspended Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert from entering any additional horses from racings at its facility.
The New York Racing Association (NYRA), which manages Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack, announced this week it's also suspending Baffert.
“In order to maintain a successful thoroughbred racing industry in New York, NYRA must protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public and racing participants,” said NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke.
The suspension will keep Baffert and Medina Spirit from competing in the 2021 Belmont Stakes. Baffert will not be able to enter races or occupy stable space at any of the NYRA-owned horse tracks.
Related Link: 7 Kentucky Derby Horses This Year With Stock Market Ties
Belmont Stakes: Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby and entered the Preakness Stakes as one of the favorites along with Baffert’s Concert Tour. Without either of these horses in the Belmont Stakes, the race will be more wide open.
Rombauer who won the Preakness Stakes over nine other horses is at Belmont Park training. The 2021 Belmont Stakes is expected to have more horses entered, including several that raced in the Kentucky Derby but skipped on the Preakness.
Without Baffert and Medina Spirit competing in the Belmont Stakes, some trainers who originally planned to sit out may choose to enter the race.
The 2021 Belmont Stakes will air on NBC Sports, a unit of Comcast Corporation CMCSA, on June 5 with a post time of 6:47 EST.
The 2021 Kentucky Derby had around 15 million viewers, the most for NBC Sports since the NFL Playoffs in January. Race viewership was up from the 2020 Kentucky Derby, which had 9.8 million viewers for its delayed September event.
The 2021 Preakness Stakes had seven million viewers, the most for the race since 2018.
The lack of Bob Baffert-trained horses could hurt viewership as the field may not be considered as competitive as other years. But, the publicity the sport has received could be good for viewership as negative news can sometimes be better than no news at all.
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