Bob Baffert sues Churchill Downs, calls for track to overturn 2-year suspension

Churchill Downs suspended the horse trainer for two years following Medina Spirit's positive test for betamethasone.
Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 11:37 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Since the allegations first surfaced in May, Bob Baffert vowed to fight them.

Tuesday morning, the legendary horse trainer continued that fight, filing a lawsuit against Churchill Downs, Inc. to overturn his two-year suspension at all Churchill-owned racetracks.

Baffert was suspended days after Kentucky Derby 147 after the horse tested positive for betamethasone.

“At this point, the team is trying to do everything they can to try to buy more time and try to defend themselves,” horse racing analyst Caton Bredar said.

Baffert’s attorneys claim Churchill Downs violated Baffert’s right to due process.

“The facts are clear, and Churchill Downs knows them, but refuses to acknowledge them,” Baffert’s attorney Clark Brewster said in a statement. “Churchill Downs knows the post-race test report occurred as a result of the use of a harmless ointment known as Otomax. They know it was prescribed by Medina Spirit’s treating veterinarian and properly and timely reported to the data bank the day it was dispensed. They know no rule was violated, and the ointment could never have enhanced Medina Spirit’s performance. To maintain otherwise is absurd.”

The anti-inflammatory drug is not permitted in a horse’s system in any form on race day in the state of Kentucky, which caused the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to disqualify the late Medina Spirit from Kentucky Derby 147 and suspend Baffert for 90 days.

Baffert’s attorneys have argued KHRC rules show ointment-based betamethasone is not considered an illegal substance, and therefore Medina Spirit should be reinstated as the Kentucky Derby winner.

However, KHRC denied Baffert’s request for a stay on the suspension.

Attorney Bob Heleringer told WAVE News he understands why.

“I’m sure the racing commission feels like if they were to listen to this and give it any credibility, and not only that but allow it to stand, then it’s open season on other cases,” Heleringer said.

Baffert has vowed to appeal the KHRC suspension and filed a motion recently in the Franklin Circuit Court on another motion for an injunction that would grant a stay on the suspension, which is scheduled to run from March 8 through June 5.

“There’s a tendency of the court to want to preserve the status quo,” Heleringer said. “And so, most of the time they’ll give a stay if the racing commission doesn’t.”

There is more at stake for Baffert in the KHRC suspension if the stay is not granted by a judge.

If it’s not granted, and the suspension is upheld, it is customary for other state racing commissions to honor the KHRC ruling. In that case, a suspension longer than 60 days in the state of California would mean Baffert would have to vacate his stalls in California, where many of his horses are currently housed.

“I really do feel that Churchill feels that the integrity of, and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby, and of racing, is at stake and so they’re not going to budge on that,” Bredar said. “And Bob feels that, rightfully so, that his career is at stake.”

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