By Lenn Robbins
We in the media have a penchant, if not a problem. We relish the opportunity to tear down a superstar. We can say this is just a reflection of society, but that would just be rationalizing which is BS.
Which brings us to Bob Baffert, the greatest, albeit now, most tainted trainer in horse racing history. Each day Baffert digs into his trainer’s bag of obfuscations and lies in an attempt to explain away what is becoming more and more clear.
He’s a cheat.
And like most of the cheaters before him – Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez – he will say almost anything to try to hide the truth.
When Churchill Downs announced it was suspending Baffert after his horse, Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, tested positive for a banned substance, the man who always seems to be wearing sunglasses like many shady guys at the track, claimed there was no way his camp had anything to do with the drug getting into horse’s system.
He played the cancel culture card, claiming that his success had created so much jealously in the business that undisclosed forces were colluding to bring him down. When he realized the “Grassy Knoll” defense wasn’t gaining traction, he switched hooves.
In at least one recent interview he went with Soggy Hay defense. Baffert told veteran journalist Rick Bozich that he once had a horse test positive for a banned substance after it ate hay that been urinated on by a groom. The groom was taking cough medicine that contained the banned substance. The horse ate the hay.
We’ve heard of a smoking gun. Now we have steaming urine.
By Tuesday morning, Baffert had a new defense: It’s not him who’s to blame, it’s the system. The system that has made him a wealthy man, one of the few in horse racing known outside of the sport by fans who couldn’t tell a thoroughbred from a Central Park carriage horse.
Baffert said Medina Spirit had in fact, ingested the banned substance, betamethasone, the one he claimed his team had nothing to with. Betamethasone, he says, is included in the ointment, Otomax, which Medina Spirit was being treated with.
But, Baffert says, the amount of the drug in Medina Spirit’s drug test was inconsequential. It had no bearing on the outcome of the Kentucky Derby. In other words, he cheated but it doesn’t matter.
“Horse racing must address its regulatory problem when it comes to substances which can innocuously find their way into a horse’s system at the picogram (which is a trillionth of a gram) level,” Baffert said in a Tuesday statement. “Medina Spirit earned his Kentucky Derby win and my pharmacologists have told me that 21 picograms of betamethasone would have no effect on the outcome of the race.”
Glad his pharmacologists have the back of the man who pays signs their checks.
Seriously, consider what Baffert is suggesting. Betamethasone innocuously got into his horse. The greatest trainer ever is suggestion he didn’t know betamethasone is in Otomax. Who’s the worst trainer?
What’s making thoroughbred horse racing seem a lot like pro wrestling (not fixed!) is that Medina Spirit remains eligible to run in the Preakness Stakes, which is Saturday in Maryland. It takes about three weeks to have the results of the Kentucky Derby drug test results confirmed so Baffert’s horse gets to compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Can you imagine the security, no less the scrutiny, that will surround Baffert and his horse this week? There must be guards stationed to make certain no grooms urinate in Medina Spirit’s stall. Baffert needs to be protected from stepping in front of another microphone because every time he opens his mouth the smell of manure is in the air.
Of course, those of us who enjoy tearing down a superstar will relish the rest of the week, right? By Friday, Baffert might claim that a Martian groom with an axe to grind urinated in Medina Spirit’s hay supply.
No Bob, no one wants to tear you down. All you have to do is admit you cheated, say you’re sorry and try to sound like you mean it, and the same people that have blown your cover will begin the rebuilding process.
Because America likes a second-chance story. That only happens if you stop being a first-rate BS artist.