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Test results on Bob Baffert’s horses could impact Triple Crown

Updated May 29, 2020 - 3:14 pm

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is accustomed to being in the public eye for winning big races, but for the second time in less than a year, he finds himself in the spotlight for the wrong reason.

Two of Baffert’s horses tested positive for a prohibited substance in Arkansas, according to unidentified sources quoted this week in multiple news reports.

The substance was lidocaine, according to The New York Times and other news outlets. Lidocaine is a Class 2 substance, according to the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and if its presence is confirmed in a second test, Baffert could face a 15- to 60-day suspension and a fine of $500 to $1,000 for a first offense.

According to the Times, one of the horses to test positive was Charlatan, the undefeated winner of a split division of the Arkansas Derby on May 2 and a leading contender for the Belmont Stakes on June 20. The other was Gamine, a 3-year-old filly who won at Oaklawn Park the same day, it said.

If the finding is upheld, Charlatan would be disqualified and forfeit the $300,000 earned in the Arkansas Derby, possibly jeopardizing a spot in the Belmont.

Baffert, who requested that authorities conduct a second test on split samples from the horses, decried the leak of his name while the investigation is continuing.

“I am hoping for an expedited investigation and look forward to being able to speak soon about any written decision of the stewards, if and when it becomes necessary and I’m allowed to under the (Arkansas Racing) commission’s confidentiality rules,” he said.

Baffert also found himself in the headlines last year when the Times reported that 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify had tested positive for scopolamine after the Santa Anita Derby. That infraction was dismissed after racing authorities in California decided it was the result of accidental contamination of the horse’s feed.

Two things to keep in mind as the labs and racing officials sort out the new complaint:

Lidocaine is a regulated anesthetic widely used in equine medicine, so this may be an “overage” in which a residual amount of the drug in the horses’ systems exceeded the permitted threshold.

Also, given that lidocaine is easily detected in routine drug screenings, it’s not a good way to cheat if that is your intent.

As if Baffert needed any more bad news, he got it Thursday when Nadal, another undefeated 3-year-old and top contender for the Triple Crown races, suffered a condylar fracture of his left foreleg during a workout at Santa Anita Park. Surgeons put two screws into the bone and the colt will be fine, though he won’t be running in the Belmont, Preakness or Kentucky Derby.

Betting apps coming back

Good news for long-suffering Nevada horseplayers, who have been without access to online betting on horses since mid-March: The services are about to resume providing, well, service.

Boyd Gaming, South Point and Station Casinos say they will resume horse betting via their apps June 4, assuming state officials sign off on plans to reopen on that date.

#RJhorseracing featured races

The #RJhorseracing handicappers are dividing their attention Saturday between Gulfstream Park and Golden Gate Fields, tackling Race 8, a $50,000 starter optional claiming race at 1 1/16th miles on the turf for 3-year-olds and up, at the former and the $75,000 Camilla Urso Stakes, a 5-furlong turf dash for fillies and mares 3 and up, at the latter.

At Gulfstream, the handicapping crew is solidly behind Venezuelan Hug, the 9-5 morning line favorite who is jumping up of his maiden score. They see Bad Beat Brian (4-1) and Lets Play Hardball (5-1) filling out the top three.

I’m not excited about Venezuelan Hug, despite the presence of Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle, and will try to beat him with City Park (20-1), who sports a nice turf pedigree for his debut on the green. I’ve got Blood Moon (9-2) and Venezuelan Hug to place and show.

In the Camilla Urso at Golden Gate Fields, the crowd ’cappers are again riding the chalk, though at 4-1 on the morning line they’re at least getting a decent price on Storming Lady. They see Left Alone (8-1) edging Princess Vivian (9-2) to place.

I can see Storming Lady’s appeal, but I’m going with Fantasy Heat (5-1), who ships north and drops in class for trainer Mark Glatt. I’ll use Coco Bee (6-1) and Storming Lady underneath.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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