The Latest: Baffert says ‘Today is not about Bob Baffert’

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Latest on the Preakness (all times local):

5:50 p.m.

Trainer Bob Baffert says Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby victory was “the result of the horse’s tremendous heart and nothing else” and he insists “there was never any attempt to game or cheat the system” — references to the horse’s postrace positive test for a steroid at Churchill Downs.

Baffert has two horses entered in the Preakness on Saturday but opted to stay away from Pimlico Race Course after the doping issue arose.

In a statement of more than 500 words emailed to reporters by his lawyer in the hours before the post time for the Preakness, Baffert said that “while this has been extremely hard and emotionally draining on me and my family, today is not about Bob Baffert.”

Assistant Jimmy Barnes was in Baltimore with Medina Spirit and Baffert’s other Preakness entrant, Concert Tour.

Baffert has said Medina Spirit was being treated for a skin condition with an antifungal ointment that included betamethasone, a corticosteroid that can be injected or applied topically and can help a horse’s joints.

“Our investigation is continuing and I don’t have definitive answers at this point,” Saturday’s statement said.

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5:15 p.m.

Welcome to a sanitized version of the Preakness. Literally.

Hand sanitizer stations are available around Pimlico Race Course, which feels empty compared to the usual crowd for the race. Capacity was capped at 10,000, and track employees are walking around instructing fans to wear a mask.

Despite the Centers for Disease Control saying Thursday that fully vaccinated people could go without a mask and Maryland dropping its mask mandate, Pimlico and the city of Baltimore have kept it in place. Adherence to that protocol was spotty at best, but the old track that has been showing its age got a fresh coat of cleaning products.

“Everything’s clean,” said Andy Lamparter, who’s attended the race most years since 1975. “The bathrooms are cleaner than they’ve ever been.”

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3:15 p.m.

Midnight Bourbon is the 5-2 favorite with just over three hours to go before the Preakness after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit opened as the 9-5 morning line favorite. Medina Spirit is currently the 3-1 second choice and fellow Bob Baffert-trained Concert Tour next at 4-1.

Steve Asmussen-trained Midnight Bourbon finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby ridden by 2018 Triple Crown-winning jockey Mike Smith, who switched mounts to Concert Tour. Irad Ortiz Jr. is set to ride Midnight Bourbon in the Preakness.

Asmussen is in search of his third victory in the Preakness and first since Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

Crowded Trade is 8-1, Risk Taking, Ram, Rombauer and Keepmeinmind 12-1 and Japan-based France Go de Ina the longest shot on the board at 20-1.

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12:15 p.m.

The Preakness is back to its usual spot on the calendar in the middle of May but without the usual frenzy in the hours leading to the race.

Attendance is limited to 10,000 — a fraction of the typical 100,000 that packs Pimlico Race Course for the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. The usually packed infield was replaced by a smaller, socially distanced gathering with musical acts that wasn’t set to open until 2 p.m.

Despite Maryland lifting its mask mandate for fully vaccinated people, Baltimore kept it in place and Pimlico maintained its protocols that require mask-wearing on the grounds.

Those in attendance saw Market Cap unseat jockey Johan Rosado in the first race Saturday in which The King Cheek won over Bob Baffert-trained favorite Hozier.

Baffert’s Kentucky Derby-winning Medina Spirit was cleared Friday to run in the Preakness after undergoing three rounds of prerace testing.

Post time for the Preakness is 6:50 p.m.

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