Trainer Bob Baffert handed over the remainder of his top Kentucky Derby horses to former assistant Tim Yakteen on Sunday Arabian knightwinner of the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn and the horse who, according to future odds, has the best chance of winning the Derby.
Baffert said the horses will move to his barn after the Derby and before the Preakness Stakes.
In addition to Arabian Knight, he moved National Treasure, Fort Bragg and Mr. Fish. It was previously telegraphed that some of Baffert’s horses would move to Yakteen when the Gotham nominations came out and former Baffert trainees Arabian Lion, Carmel Road and Hejazi had given up Yakteen as trainers. The race is Saturday at Aqueduct in New York.
Fort Warren had previously moved to Brittney Russell and nominated for the Gotham, and Harlocap, who finished sixth in the Risen Star, was placed with Steve Asmussen.
Reincarnate was also moved to Yakteen and finished third in the Rebel Stakes on Saturday.
Yakteen now has seven nominated horses for Saturday’s San Felipe in Santa Anita, including two of his own horses, Kangaroo Court and Practical Move. Carmel Road and Hejazi are nominated for both Gotham and San Felipe. Arabian Knight is back in Santa Anita and his next race could be the Arkansas Derby or Santa Anita Derby.
Yakteen did not immediately respond to a message from The Times.
The moves were accelerated by a two-year ban Churchill Downs imposed on Baffert after Medina Spirit tested positive for legal medication, but not legal on race day, after winning the 2021 Derby. The horse was subsequently disqualified although that is still in process .
To qualify for the Derby, you must collect points in preparation races. However, Baffert is not eligible for points, which are awarded when his horses finish in the top five in designated races. Most major preparations begin this weekend and so Baffert, after consulting with owners, had to move his horses.
Baffert has until Tuesday to move more horses to Yakteen or other trainers. That date had been set by Churchill Downs as the last day you could switch trainers for a horse and be eligible to compete in the Kentucky Derby.
“I tried to set up as smooth a transition as possible for the horses and owners and still get them Derby points,” said Baffert.
“It’s tough for the grooms who have been working with the horses for a year or so. We have all been around these horses and in some cases found them (when sold). Our entire program is based around 3-year-olds and the Kentucky Derby. It’s hard to give them up. We thought we had a good chance of getting a warrant, but we didn’t. So we have to move forward, we have to move on.”
Yakteen received two derby horses from Baffert last year, Taiba and Messier, which he qualified by finishing first and second in the Santa Anita Derby. They were less fortunate in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 12th and 15th.
Yakteen worked with Baffert in both quarterhorses and thoroughbreds. His last stint started in 1997, where he stayed for seven years before going off on his own as a trainer.