Hall of Fame horse trainer Bob Baffert is suing racetrack Churchill Downs, alleging that his two-year suspension by the Kentucky Derby’s parent company is “malicious.”
The federal lawsuit, filed in the Western District of Kentucky on Monday, came a week after one of Baffert’s horses, Medina Spirit, was stripped of his Kentucky Derby win last year due to a failed drug test. Medina Spirit, who died in December of an apparent heart attack, tested positive after the race in May 2021 for a steroid, betamethasone, that is legal in Kentucky but banned on race day.
Baffert, well-regarded as one of the best trainers in the history of racing, has led his horses to 17 American Classic victories, including the only two Triple Crown winners (American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018) since 1979.
Baffert’s lawyers said Churchill Downs “has, with malicious intent, caused significant damage to Baffert’s ability to conduct his customary business on a national scale.”
“Churchill Downs knows the post-race test report occurred as a result of the use of a harmless ointment known as Otomax,” Baffert’s attorney Clark Brewster said in a statement.
“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.”
Churchill Downs on Tuesday responded to Baffert’s lawsuit, calling it “disappointing but certainly not surprising.”
“His claims are 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,” the company said in a statement.
“These actions have harmed the reputations of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs and the entire Thoroughbred racing industry. Churchill Downs will fight this baseless lawsuit and defend our company’s rights. What’s at stake here is the integrity of our races, the safety of horses and the trust of the millions of fans and bettors who join us every year on the first Saturday in May.”
• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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