Locals weigh in on Bob Baffert’s suspension

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 10:07 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Horse trainer and Nogales native Bob Baffert was suspended for two years by Churchill Downs. This comes after a drug test of horse Medina Spirit confirmed the presence of a steroid in the Kentucky Derby winner’s system.

We spoke with the president of the Bert W. Martin Foundation, which has been the primary funding source of Rillito Park the last few years. They are working hard to preserve the racetrack’s history, and Bob Baffert is a huge part of that.

But the question is, will today’s ruling change anything?

Rillito Park has been the place where horse racing enthusiasts have gone for over 70 years. And it’s where world renowned trainer Bob Baffert launched his career after graduating from the U of A’s Race Track Industry program.

“Bob’s history with Rillito is very interesting because now that he is known worldwide, his first win as a jockey was at Rillito racetrack. His first win as a trainer was at Rillito racetrack,” says Chandler Warden, President of the Bert W. Martin Foundation.

And the rest is history. If there is a prominent horse race, Baffert’s trainee has likely won it multiple times. But with today’s news about Baffert’s suspension, we reached out to Rillito Park officials to get their take. General Manager Mike Weiss tells us:

“It’s hard to knock Bob. Not only a local favorite who started at Rillito, but also as a hero to many with 7 Kentucky Derby wins, 7 Preakness wins as well as 3 Belmont wins. The man has way more than 3000 winner circle visits and every single horse that wins goes through race testing. I’m sad to see the negative publicity that such a great trainer is getting however, first priority is safety of the horses and riders and Kentucky is standing ground on principle and doing what they believe is right.”

“I think that if something negative comes from the findings, I don’t think that any support or people coming out to the track,” says Warden. “I don’t think that would be impacted quite frankly.”

Warren adds, Rillito has its own history and traditions, and nothing can take that away.

The future of Rillito is as uncertain as Baffert’s career moving forward. Warden continues to advocate for fundraising to keep the track afloat, but says help is needed now more than ever.

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