Jim O'Donnell: Baffert's asterisked Preakness run should be on Court TV, not NBC

  • Trainer Bob Baffert, here watching workouts two weeks ago at Churchill Downs, has two horses in the Preakness Stakes, including Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit.

    Trainer Bob Baffert, here watching workouts two weeks ago at Churchill Downs, has two horses in the Preakness Stakes, including Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit. Associated Press

Updated 5/12/2021 8:40 PM

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.

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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.

STREET-BEATIN': Credible industry sources are saying that no less than Wayne Gretzky could be headed for a Charles Barkley-style role on TNT's inaugural 2021-22 NHL coverage. ("The Great One" and "The Round Mound of Rebound" were long neighbors in Arizona.) ...

Pat Foley's "bullet in my head" comment on the Blackhawks-Dallas season finale Monday was unfortunate but hardly indictable. In a four-decade career that has included millions of high-speed words in tight windows, Foley made a fleeting error and all will rightfully move on. ...

Kenny Mayne's departure from ESPN was no surprise. His deadpan style never played particularly well to segments of the network's broad horizontal, and he looked atypically worn out during recent on-air appearances. ...

Laurence Holmes has given up his Sunday morning CBS Sport Radio show, which caught many off-guard, since they didn't know it existed. (Holmes continues as a daytime host on stagnant WSCR-AM 670.) ...

As if the Tokyo Olympics aren't already haunted enough, Tevin Biles-Thomas -- the 26-year-old brother of the magnificent Simone Biles -- is on trial for three counts of murder in Cleveland. The shooting occurred at a New Year's Eve party two years ago; Biles-Thomas, an Army soldier based in Germany, has pleaded not guilty. ...

The historic debut of Beth Mowins as Cubs play-by-play person was notably well-received. (Although, any woman doing MLB games in Chicago is up against a steep tradition that greatly reveres avuncular, hawkishly "homie" types -- that's not opinion, that's fact.) ...

And iconic Chicago racing secretary Gary Duch -- on this weekend's crabby proceedings at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course: "They go from The Black-Eyed Susan on Friday to the black-eyed Preakness on Saturday."

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.

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