For years, Bob Baffert was one of the most winning trainers in thoroughbred racing, scoring seven Kentucky Derby wins. But his career and legacy are now in jeopardy as his 2021 Derby winner, Medina Spirit, was stripped of the win after failing a post-race drug test and some have labeled Baffert as a cheater.
Baffert has avoided the media for much of the past year but agreed to a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Marty Smith, saying he will not do any other interviews.
Smith and ESPN producer Kristine Kugler conducted the interview at Baffert’s home in Los Angeles. Part 1 will debut on the noon ET edition of SportsCenter Friday, with Part 2 to air in the 7 a.m. show on Saturday, before that afternoon’s Kentucky Derby.
An excerpt of the interview appears in the video above.
Smith spoke with Front Row:
What was the process of securing this interview? How long did it take?
Having covered the Triple Crown for several years now, I’ve built a good rapport with Mr. Baffert. So when I reached out to him last month about the potential to interview him, I simply told him he deserved to share his truth and that I’d like to offer him the ESPN platform to do so.
I told him that I’d fly to California and ask him pointed questions. He asked for a week or 10 days to consider it. I followed up after 12 days, and he agreed to chat with me. So from the initial ask to the morning of the interview, it wasn’t a very long increment of time. But if we’re being honest, it was years in the making.
First of all, he answered every question I asked, no matter how pointed. This is Mr. Baffert’s first in-depth explanation of why he believes Medina Spirit should not have been penalized and why he is fighting so hard — not only for Medina Spirit’s legacy, but for his own. – Marty Smith
Why do you think he did it?
Given the historic successes of his horses and his Hall of Fame resume, I’ve interviewed Mr. Baffert more than I’ve interviewed anyone else in the sport. We built a mutual respect for one another. I told him if he agreed to the interview, that my questions would be direct, often hard questions, but that they would be fair. He respected that. It’s an interesting thing sitting across from someone who is accused of cheating and asking him why we should believe him.
What do you think viewers will take away from the interview?
First of all, he answered every question I asked, no matter how pointed. This is Mr. Baffert’s first in-depth explanation of why he believes Medina Spirit should not have been penalized and why he is fighting so hard — not only for Medina Spirit’s legacy, but for his own.
Kristine Kugler produced the excerpt above.