LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Bob Baffert is back. Or at least back at Keeneland, thus back at this year's Breeders' Cup. As irony would have it, the sport's most famous thoroughbred trainer is making his return to the national stage in the same state where his troubles began.
You know the story. The long, long story. In 2021, Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned substance after giving Baffert his seventh Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Churchill suspended Baffert for two years. The New York Racing Association issued a one-year suspension. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission suspended Baffert for 90 days, a sentence that was completed July 2. Baffert is suing both Churchill Downs and NYRA.
This year's Breeders' Cup is Friday and Saturday at Keeneland, where Baffert is again allowed to both train and enter horses. And love him or hate him, the 69-year-old will undoubtedly make an impact with five horses currently under his guidance from his California base among the Breeders' Cup pre-entries.
On Saturday, Baffert will challenge favorite and potential superhorse Flightline in the Breeders' Cup Classic, a race Baffert has won a record four times -- 2014 with Bayern; 2015 with Triple Crown champion American Pharoah at Keeneland; 2016 with Arrogate and 2020 with Authentic.
• Taiba: The son of Gun Runner did not make his racing debut until March 5 when he broke his maiden. He then won the Santa Anita Derby before finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Tim Yakteen, while Baffert was banned. After returning to Baffert's barn, Taiba finished second to Cyberknife in the Grade I Haskell on July 23 before winning the Pennsylvania Derby over Zandon and Cyberknife on Sept. 4.
Taiba was a $1.7 million purchase as a 2-year-old by Zedan Racing, who owned Medina Spirit. He has career earnings of $1,236,200.
Baffert has won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile five times, including last year at Del Mar with Corniche. He also won in 2018 with Game Winner; 2013 with New Year's Day; 2008 with Midshipman and 2002 with Vindication. Only D. Wayne Lukas (1986, 1987, 1988, 1994 and 1996) has won as many BC Juveniles as Baffert.
Baffert has two Juvenile pre-entries for Friday's race:
• Cave Rock: The son of Arrogate is 3 for 3 this season with two Grade I wins in the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 11 and the American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 8. Cave Rock is owned by Baffert loyalists Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman.
Cave Rock is the probable race favorite ahead of Chad Brown's Blazing Sevens, who won the Grade I Champagne Stakes, and Todd Pletcher's Forte, who won the Grade I Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.
• National Treasure: The son of Quality Road is 1 for 2 this year. After breaking his maiden on Sept. 3 at Del Mar, he ran second to Cave Rock in the American Pharoah. He was a $500,000 yearling purchase at the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga Select Yearling Sale in 2021.
Baffert has one horse in Friday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, a race that has been run just four times previously:
• Speed Boat Beach: The son of Bayern is 2 for 2 with a win at Del Mar on Sept. 10 and a victory in the Speakeasy Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 2. Like Cave Rock, Speed Boat Beach is owned by the Pegram-Watson-Weitman collaboration.
Baffert has one entry in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile:
• Laurel River: The 4-year-old Juddmonte homebred has won four of his seven starts and is a perfect 2 for 2 in 2022. A son of Into Mischief, Laurel River is coming off a win in the Grade II Pat O'Brien Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 27.