Kentucky Horse Racing Commissioners have business ties with Baffert, PETA says


Louisville, Ky. – PETA is calling on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) to explain how it will deal with conflicts of interest that may arise in adjudicating an alleged drug violation by Bob Baffert, given that three commissioners appear to have business ties with the trainer. The letter to the commission, sent this morning, follows the announcement on Sunday that Baffert-trained Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, a prohibited anti-inflammatory drug.

The group points to the following:

  • Commissioner Charlie O’Connor is the director of sales for Coolmore America, where several prominent Baffert-trained horses stand at stud, including Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify; Maximum Security, who was transferred to Baffert from Jason Servis (recently indicted on drug charges) after he was disqualified from the Kentucky Derby; Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky; and graded stakes winner Cupid. Coolmore has a financial stake in preserving Baffert’s reputation.
  • Commissioner Lesley Howard is general manager of Stonestreet Farms, which is the owner or a part owner of several horses trained by Baffert, including Charlatan, Hozier, Bezos, Money Mike, Fenway, and Curvette.
  • Commissioner Tom Riddle was a veterinarian at Rood & Riddle for many years and now serves as the practice’s director of public relations. Baffert has had horses treated at Rood & Riddle, including Life Is Good, who recently had surgery there.

PETA is also urging the commission to take stronger action than simply disqualifying Medina Spirit, redistributing the prize money, and fining Baffert if the second test confirms the presence of betamethasone. The group urges the KHRC to mandate payouts to all bettors who placed bets on the second-place winner and should have won, to investigate the veterinarian, and to revoke Baffert’s license to race in Kentucky.

“The racing industry must come to terms with this and understand that a small fine and purse redistribution are not enough,” writes Guillermo. “Drugging a horse is not only cheating but also abuse—and anyone who abuses a horse must not be allowed to race in Kentucky.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram.


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Featured Image: Medina Spirit, a horse trained by Bob Baffert, is groomed at Churchill Downs the week before the running of 147th Kentucky Derby. 

Photographer: Bryan Woolston / Reuters file. Not filed with this Press Release.

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