Bob Baffert Banned From Kentucky Derby, But His Horses Aren’t

Written By Nicole Russo on May 3, 2022
Kentucky Derby betting

Bob Baffert is one of the most recognizable names in the horse racing industry. He trained American Pharoah for his 2015 triple crown sweep and repeated the sweep in 2018 with Justify. So can you wager on Baffert Kentucky Derby horses?

While Baffert won’t be at the 2022 Kentucky Derby this Saturday, that doesn’t mean his (former) horses aren’t in the mix.

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Why Is Bob Baffert Banned From The Kentucky Derby?

In 2021, Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test, testing positive for betamethasone. The drug is an anti-inflammatory medication that is allowed in Kentucky but has to clear the horse’s system 14 days prior to the race.

Medina Spirit was stripped of his victory and his trainer, Baffert, was banned from entering horses at Churchill Downs through mid-2023. Baffert was also given a suspension from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission which will cause him to miss the entire Triple Crown series.

He has tried and failed to overturn the track’s ban. Baffert is also currently suing Churchill Downs Inc. to end his suspension.

This will be just the sixth time he hasn’t had a horse in the race, but he’s pretty familiar with two that will be there.

Two Former Baffert-Trained Horses To Run The Derby

Two Kentucky Derby starters in this year’s race were formerly trained by Baffert. He previously worked with Messier, currently at +800 to win the race, and Taiba at +1200. The entire 2022 Kentucky Derby odds board is below.

HorseKentucky Derby odds
Mo Donegal+1000
White Abarrio+1000
Smile Happy+2000
Charge It+2000
Crown Pride+2000
Tiz the Bomb+3000
Happy Jack+3000
Barber Road+3000
Classic Causeway+3000
Pioneer of Medina+3000
Tawny Port+3000
Summer Is Tomorrow+3000
Etheral Road+3000

Tim Yakteen is now overseeing both contenders. He is one of Baffert’s former assistants but also runs his own stable. The owners of both horses agreed to the switch.

Under the suspension, Baffert cannot have contact with Yakteen.


Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who was the jockey during Justify’s Triple Crown, is jockeying for Taiba. The $1.7 million colt isn’t very seasoned, but he captured everyone’s attention when he won the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby.

That win was just Taiba’s second career start. Smith did not ride Taiba in his first career win, which was won under John Velazquez, now jockeying Messier.

Speaking about the switch and Taiba’s responsiveness, Smith said,

“That’s what I really liked about him… He was really intelligent. He listened to everything I wanted him to do. As soon as I let him know I wanted him to sit off the top two, he was just happy to do it. But then when I called on him to stay where I wanted him to stay, he jumped right back into the bridle. That’s a credit to the connections and the people who have been working with him.”

Taiba will be one of the least experienced horses at the Kentucky Derby, which will be his third career start. If he wins, he will be the first horse since Leonatus in 1883 to win the Derby in his third start.

He has a good pedigree, coming from the first crop of Gun Runner, the third-place Kentucky Derby finisher in 2016. With his esteemed history and his win in Santa Anita, most think he will be able to stay the 1 1/4 miles.


Messier currently sits at 8-1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby. He is a three-year-old colt born in Ontario, now trained by Yakteen with John Velazquez as his jockey.

Over six lifetime starts, he has won three and finished second place in three of them.

One of the losses came in Santa Anita, where Taiba won by two lengths. One of his owners, Tom Ryan, feels strongly about the horse’s chances this year.

“We have a Grade 1 horse that, in my personal opinion, I would not choose to swap for anybody else in the race. We definitely haven’t seen the best of this horse yet. I think there’s bigger and better things to come.”

Photo by Associated Press
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Nicole Russo

Nicole Russo is the Brand Content Strategist for Previously, she covered the gambling industries in Tennessee and Indiana as a content editor for and She comes from the world of poker, leading the marketing efforts for online poker in Nevada and New Jersey with the WSOP. Russo also assisted with the marketing efforts for the Caesars Sportsbook launch in 2019.

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