Bob Baffert’s suspension upheld by Kentucky Horse Racing Commission

Baffert’s Kentucky Derby-winning horse Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test after the 2021 Derby, prompting his suspension.
Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 11:51 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 4, 2022 at 4:12 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - In a 10-0 vote on Friday morning, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission upheld the suspension of horse trainer Bob Baffert; three members abstained, and one did not vote.

Following the Kentucky Derby, Baffert’s prized mount and winning horse, Medina Spirit, failed a post-race drug test, earning him a 90-day suspension from the KHRC and a two-year suspension from all Churchill Downs racetracks. The horse tested positive for betamethasone, a prohibited drug on race day.

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Medina Spirit races to victory in the 147th Kentucky Derby.
Medina Spirit races to victory in the 147th Kentucky Derby.(John P. Wise)

The 90 day suspension by the KHRC was handed down last week alongside the official disqualification of Medina Spirit as the Derby winner.

In a statement, Clark Brewster, Attorney for Bob Baffert said Friday:

“KHRC’s decision is a sudden, arbitrary departure from its own 100-year precedent and from the general practice of courts everywhere in the United States. Let’s be clear: This is part of a continuing coordinated attack against Bob by powerful forces that are rife with ethical and business conflicts and that want to keep Bob’s horses from competing against theirs at the track. We look forward to obtaining a stay in an impartial, unbiased court of law.

Let’s also remember that the facts and law in the overall case are on Bob’s side. Fact: Kentucky regulates only the injectable form of betamethasone acetate, and not the topical betamethasone valerate. Fact: Medina Spirit was treated with an ointment, not an injection. And fact: the amount detected could not have impacted the horse’s performance or the outcome of the Kentucky Derby.”

Another Baffert attorney, W. Craig Robertson III, said they will, “take the matter back up with the Franklin Circuit Court on March 17.” That means Baffert’s three-month suspension could begin as early as March 22.

Until the appeal is heard by the court, Baffert will not be able to train or race horses in Kentucky, which is where over 80 of the horses he trains are located.

Due to a suspension from Churchill Downs as well, the Hall of Fame trainer’s horses will be unable to accumulate points toward the Kentucky Derby 148.

Baffert’s attorneys argue that Churchill Downs violated Baffert’s right to due process and said KHRC rules show that ointment-based betamethasone is not considered an illegal substance, so Medina Spirit should be reinstated as Kentucky Derby winner.

For reference, the KHRC regulations state: “KRS 230.240(2) requires the commission to promulgate administrative regulations restricting or prohibiting the administration of drugs or stimulants or other improper acts to horses prior to the horse participating in a race. … The following have a fourteen (14) day stand down period for intra-articular injection. Any IA corticosteroid injection within fourteen (14) days is a violation: (i) Betamethasone, via IA administration at 9 mg total dose in a single articular space.”

Friday, the KHRC said there’s no way to scientifically determine if the drug played a significant impact on the race or not.

In December, Medina Spirit died on the main track at Santa Anita Park in California shortly after a workout.

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