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Churchill Downs extends trainer Bob Baffert’s ban through 2024

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In a stunning development, Churchill Downs Inc. extended trainer Bob Baffert’s suspension from all of its racetracks, including its signature track that hosts the Kentucky Derby, by at least another year despite the fact he has had no violations in the two years since he was suspended.

Churchill Downs suspended the Hall of Fame trainer for two years in 2021 after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a medication that is legal except for on race day. Medina Spirit had a positive test for betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory that is not considered a performance enhancer in the traditional sense. Baffert has contended that the now-deceased colt had been administered the medication as an ointment for a rash and was not given through an injection. The case remains in litigation with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, and Medina Spirit has been stripped of the victory. There are no current suits against Churchill Downs.

“Mr. Baffert continues to peddle a false narrative concerning the failed drug test of Medina Spirit at the 147th Kentucky Derby from which his horse was disqualified by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in accordance with Kentucky law and regulations,” Churchill Downs said Monday in a statement.

“Prior to that race, Mr. Baffert signed an agreement with Churchill Downs which stated that he was responsible for understanding the rules of racing in Kentucky and that he would abide by them. The results of the tests clearly show that he did not comply, and his ongoing conduct reveals his continued disregard for the rules and regulations that ensure horse and jockey safety, as well as the integrity and fairness of the races conducted at our facilities.

“A trainer who is unwilling to accept responsibility for multiple drug test failures in our highest-profile races cannot be trusted to avoid future misconduct. Mr. Baffert will remain suspended from entering horses at all racetracks owned by CDI through 2024. After such time, we will re-evaluate his status.”

Baffert’s two-year suspension status was thought to have ended Sunday at the conclusion of the Churchill Downs meeting at Ellis Park.

The meeting was moved to Ellis Park after a concerning increase of horse deaths at Churchill Downs before, during and after the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs was at the center of a national firestorm when nine horses died in the week and a half before the running of the Kentucky Derby. The death toll has risen to at least 13, after almost a month with no fatalities after racing was moved to Ellis Park. Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission do not routinely publicly report horse deaths.

“I am at a loss to understand Churchill Downs’ latest action to suspend me,” Baffert told The Times in a text. “From the moment I learned of Medina Sprit’s post-race positive, now more than two years ago, I committed to find how it could have occurred, given we have never injected Medina Spirit with betamethasone, which the veterinary records confirm.

“A review of our treatment records showed we used a topical ointment called Otomax for a skin infection, and post-race testing of the sample confirmed the positive test came from a topical application.

“I have been open, honest and forthcoming about these events. I have acknowledged that our treatment led to the positive and I have fully informed the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that we had treated Medina Spirit in this way.

“I have been advised by attorneys that the use of Otomax is permitted under the rules and this issue is presently being adjudicated by the Racing Commission in a case presently before them. In no way does this involve a ‘disregard for the rules.’

“In the interest of the sport we all love, I have made no public comments on this unfortunate episode for an extended period of time so the suggestion that I ‘continue to peddle a false narrative’ is patently false.”

Churchill Downs owns several tracks in Kentucky, including Ellis Park and Turfway Park; the Fair Grounds in New Orleans; and Colonial Downs in Virginia. It recently closed Arlington Park in Chicago.

This move, if it is upheld against legal challenges, would keep the six-time Derby champion from a third consecutive Kentucky Derby.


In a stunning development, Churchill Downs Inc. extended trainer Bob Baffert’s suspension from all of its racetracks, including its signature track that hosts the Kentucky Derby, by at least another year despite the fact he has had no violations in the two years since he was suspended.

Churchill Downs suspended the Hall of Fame trainer for two years in 2021 after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a medication that is legal except for on race day. Medina Spirit had a positive test for betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory that is not considered a performance enhancer in the traditional sense. Baffert has contended that the now-deceased colt had been administered the medication as an ointment for a rash and was not given through an injection. The case remains in litigation with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, and Medina Spirit has been stripped of the victory. There are no current suits against Churchill Downs.

“Mr. Baffert continues to peddle a false narrative concerning the failed drug test of Medina Spirit at the 147th Kentucky Derby from which his horse was disqualified by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in accordance with Kentucky law and regulations,” Churchill Downs said Monday in a statement.

“Prior to that race, Mr. Baffert signed an agreement with Churchill Downs which stated that he was responsible for understanding the rules of racing in Kentucky and that he would abide by them. The results of the tests clearly show that he did not comply, and his ongoing conduct reveals his continued disregard for the rules and regulations that ensure horse and jockey safety, as well as the integrity and fairness of the races conducted at our facilities.

“A trainer who is unwilling to accept responsibility for multiple drug test failures in our highest-profile races cannot be trusted to avoid future misconduct. Mr. Baffert will remain suspended from entering horses at all racetracks owned by CDI through 2024. After such time, we will re-evaluate his status.”

Baffert’s two-year suspension status was thought to have ended Sunday at the conclusion of the Churchill Downs meeting at Ellis Park.

The meeting was moved to Ellis Park after a concerning increase of horse deaths at Churchill Downs before, during and after the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs was at the center of a national firestorm when nine horses died in the week and a half before the running of the Kentucky Derby. The death toll has risen to at least 13, after almost a month with no fatalities after racing was moved to Ellis Park. Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission do not routinely publicly report horse deaths.

“I am at a loss to understand Churchill Downs’ latest action to suspend me,” Baffert told The Times in a text. “From the moment I learned of Medina Sprit’s post-race positive, now more than two years ago, I committed to find how it could have occurred, given we have never injected Medina Spirit with betamethasone, which the veterinary records confirm.

“A review of our treatment records showed we used a topical ointment called Otomax for a skin infection, and post-race testing of the sample confirmed the positive test came from a topical application.

“I have been open, honest and forthcoming about these events. I have acknowledged that our treatment led to the positive and I have fully informed the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that we had treated Medina Spirit in this way.

“I have been advised by attorneys that the use of Otomax is permitted under the rules and this issue is presently being adjudicated by the Racing Commission in a case presently before them. In no way does this involve a ‘disregard for the rules.’

“In the interest of the sport we all love, I have made no public comments on this unfortunate episode for an extended period of time so the suggestion that I ‘continue to peddle a false narrative’ is patently false.”

Churchill Downs owns several tracks in Kentucky, including Ellis Park and Turfway Park; the Fair Grounds in New Orleans; and Colonial Downs in Virginia. It recently closed Arlington Park in Chicago.

This move, if it is upheld against legal challenges, would keep the six-time Derby champion from a third consecutive Kentucky Derby.

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