The Arkansas Derby winner won’t be at the Kentucky Derby this year, here’s why

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KNWA/KFTA) — Each year since 1936, the Arkansas Derby in Hot Springs has typically provided one of the 20 horses competing in the Kentucky Derby, except for 2024.

Muth, a three-year-old colt, won the Arkansas Derby on March 30 by two lengths but will not compete in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby and is ineligible for the 100 qualifying points because of its trainer, Bob Baffert.

FILE – In a photo provided by Benoit Photo, Muth, ridden by jockey Juan Hernandez, wins the Grade I, $300,000 American Pharoah Stakes horse race Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif. A Kentucky appeals court judge on Wednesday, April 24, 2024, has denied Zedan Racing Stables’ requests for an emergency hearing and ruling that sought to allow Bob Baffert-trained Arkansas Derby winner Muth to run in next week’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. (Benoit Photo via AP, File)

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Baffert, the trainer behind six horses’ Kentucky Derby wins, was overshadowed in 2021 by Medina Spirit’s win after the horse tested positive for the steroid betamethasone in a post-race test and was later disqualified.

The two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer was banned from Churchill Downs for two years after Medina Spirit was disqualified. In July 2023, the ban was extended through the end of 2024 citing “continued concerns regarding the threat to the safety and integrity of racing he poses to CDI-owned racetracks.”

After Muth’s Arkansas Derby win, Zedan Racing Stables, the horse’s owner, sued Churchill Downs seeking a temporary injunction against Baffert’s ban and requesting the horse be allowed to run the 150th Kentucky Derby.

On April 18, a Jefferson County Circuit Judge declined to grant the injunction.

“Public trust and confidence in the integrity of the races run at Churchill Downs are essential to its business,” the judge wrote. “It is also in the public interest to ensure that all those who attend or watch races at Churchill Downs can be confident in the fairness and integrity of the sport.”

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The judge also added he had concerns about “innocent third parties” having to remove eligible horses to make room for Muth.

ZRS filed an emergency appeal which was denied by a Kentucky appeals court judge the following week, effectively ending Muth’s chances of competing in the Derby.

While being ineligible for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, Muth is still eligible for the Preakness on May 18. Baffert in Oaklawn Racing’s barn notes in April said the Arkansas Derby was an audition for that race.

“My plan’s always been, if he ran well there, we’re just pointing him for the Preakness,” Baffert said. “So, that’s what the plans are.”

Had Muth been eligible for the Kentucky Derby and won, it would have been just the fourth horse to win both the Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby in the same year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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