Del Mar Thoroughbred Club president talks Baffert, upcoming season

Sports

DEL MAR, Calif. – Hall of Fame horse trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended by Churchill Downs after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned substance in two post-race drug tests.

That means no horse trained by Baffert or his stable can race in the Derby for the next two years.

Prior to the decision Wednesday, FOX 5’s Kathleen Bade spoke with Del Mar Thoroughbred Club President Joe Harper about Baffert — a longtime personal friend and a familiar face at the track — and what race fans can expect to see in the upcoming season.

“We will honor whatever the Kentucky Racing Commission says,” Harper said. “If they give (Baffert) a number of days off — whether it’s 30 or 60, whatever the number is — we would honor that.”

When asked what will happen to the COVID-19 vaccination site when race season starts, Harper said they will make whatever adjustments are necessary to make sure they don’t get in the way of vaccinations. Opening day is Friday, July 16.

“We’re going to go with 100% of our seating capabilities, which is 15,000 seats. Depending on what restrictions are lifted between now and then, we might be able to take more people, walk around, that type of thing,” Harper said.

Harper said it was tough last summer looking around and seeing no one at the track.

“Especially seeing no employees, I mean 1,500 people were out of a job,” Harper said.

FOX 5 asked Harper what he’s most looking forward to when it comes to opening day at the track.

“Del Mar is such a great spot, it’s a happy place, a party place. So much of what we do is entertainment, not just in the racing industry,” Harper said. “Personally for me to be able to go around and talk to the people and shake hands and do that, that’s one of the things I missed.”

Tickets for this season go on sale on June 17.

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