Jim O'Donnell: Baffert's asterisked Preakness run should be on Court TV, not NBC
IF THE GODS OF RACING had a sense of humor, Bob Baffert's two starters in Saturday's diminished Preakness Stakes would be named "Due Process" and "Crisis Management."
Alternative 1B would be "Bad Rub."
Instead, what remains of the Triple Crown TV audience will be watching tainted Kentucky Derby first-place finisher Medina Spirit (9-5) and stablemate Concert Tour (5-2) in an odd run for the restraining orders.
The race is more suited for classic Court TV rather than NBC (4 p.m.; post time -- 5:47 p.m.).
By his own admission, Baffert has been found guilty of a medication violation involving the victory of Medina Spirit in America's most well-known thoroughbred race.
He lawyered up quickly and clearly was following suite-level crisis management by beating the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to the announcement on the Churchill Downs backstretch Sunday morning.
Since then, Baffert's image restoration crew has been burning the pirate's cove oil.
He has worked overtime to distance himself semantically from the finding of the KHRC laboratory.
He has shown an Actors Studio facility for presenting the wearied eminence front of a championship trainer victimized by free-flowing adversaries and pharmaceutical pico kill.
The silver-maned salesman has even repeatedly suggested he is quite nobly fighting above all else for the reputation of Medina Spirit, a 3-year-old colt who unfortunately lacks the news conference skills of Mr. Ed.
In the midterm, Baffert is hanging his seventh Derby win on the 5 percent chance that an independent testing lab will find some sort of compelling mitigation via "split sample" to overturn the conclusion of the expert Kentucky equine chemists.
The tempest singes a game always smoldering and it has nothing to do with the false perception of "public outcry."
(The "outcry" of day-to-day horseplayers lasts until the next intertrack post time, normally maybe four minutes or so. As for the general public, regardless of the Baffert outcome, they will take note of the Kentucky Derby for a day or two and then, as always, move on to more important matters, like prom dresses and Pee Wee baseball.)
By any means necessary, Baffert delivered a Derby score to owner Amr Zedan, a wealthy and extremely well-connected Saudi businessman.
Zedan, 46, is dashing, athletic and married to Princess Noor bint Asem of Jordan.
Most important to significant American thoroughbred interests, he operates within the fiendish approval sphere of Saudi ruler Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the billions of dollars he controls.
A Kentucky Derby win is a fantastic lure for some of that black Saudi gold to be directed to future North American breeding and horse sales.
All of that is now being put to risk over some minuscule amount of horse's rear fungal ointment?
In the old days, Kentucky overseers would have conveniently "lost" the lab result of Medina Spirit.
Now, instead, Mike Tirico and NBC mates will gingerly have to reference "Due Process" and "Crisis Management" during a most delicate call to the Preakness post.
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• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.