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Horse trainer Bob Baffert has filed a lawsuit against Churchill Downs and some of the track’s leadership regarding a two-year suspension. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Fighting his corner
Horse trainer Bob Baffert has sued Churchill Downs and the leadership of the racetrack in an effort to overturn his two-year suspension from the home of the Kentucky Derby.
violated Baffert’s due process rights
The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in a federal court, alleges that Churchill Downs violated Baffert’s due process rights when handing out the ban. The track banned Baffert after his horse Medina Spirit failed doping tests last year.
The lawsuit seeks a ruling that deems the suspension unlawful. It names both Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) CEO William Carstanjen and chairman of the board R. Alex Rankin.
Baffert’s attorney Clark Brewster questioned how Churchill Downs could ban a trainer without any sort of due process. The trainer allegedly did not get the chance to refute the allegations or lodge an appeal. Brewster claimed that by issuing a suspension to Baffert, CDI knew it would “give illegitimate credibility to a false narrative.”
CDI not backing down
CDI has responded to the filing of Baffert’s lawsuit, describing it as disappointing but unsurprising. It labeled Baffert’s claims “meritless and consistent with his pattern of failed drug tests, denials, excuses and attempts to blame others and identify loopholes in order to avoid taking responsibility for his actions.”
found an illegal steroid in the horse’s system
The horseracing company issued a two-year ban to Baffert last year as a result of numerous failed doping tests by Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit. In addition to Baffert’s ban, Medina Spirit was stripped of the 2021 Kentucky Derby win. Officials found an illegal steroid in the horse’s system on the day of the race.
Baffert announced in December that Medina Spirit died of a supposed heart attack following a workout. A necropsy did not find a definitive cause of death.
Baffert and his legal team have argued that Medina Spirit was exposed to Betamethasone through a skin ointment rather than by injection. They claim that regulations in Kentucky only ban the injectable form of the anti-inflammatory drug on race day and not the compound found in topical ointment.
KHRC also stands strong
Following its own investigation, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) recently gave Baffert a 90-day suspension from all racing facilities in the state, as well as a fine of $7,500. Baffert has attempted to attain a stay for the suspension, but KHRC director Marc Guilfoil denied the request on Friday. The 90-day suspension comes into effect on March 8.
A Kentucky state judge will hear arguments on Wednesday regarding Baffert’s request for a temporary injunction. This would stop enforcement of the suspension while appeals are ongoing.
A report in 2020 from The New York Times outlined how Baffert-trained horses had failed 29 drug tests over the course of four decades.