Horseplayers file RICO lawsuit against Bob Baffert for losing Kentucky Derby wagers


This is fascinating stuff. Finally someone who knows and understands is reporting on this. —TH.

Mr Zorn writes:

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Last week, four disgruntled bettors sued Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit’s trainer Bob Baffert and owner Amr Zedan, claiming that the horse’s failed post—Kentucky Derby drug test was the tip of an iceberg of fraud and corruption and seeking damages for what, the plaintiffs say, were upwards of $50,000 in winnings that would have been paid out to them if runner-up Mandaloun, and not Medina Spirit, had been declared the Derby winner.

The lawsuit, filed on the plaintiffs’ behalf by a well-known California class-action and consumer-complaint law firm, sensibly doesn’t seek to recover the hypothetical winnings from Churchill Downs itself, which paid out tickets on Medina Spirit as soon as the result was declared official at the track on May 5th. Under the regulations in effect in Kentucky, and every other state that has live racing:

Payment of valid pari-mutuel tickets shall be made on the basis of the order of finish as declared “official” by the judges. A subsequent change in the order of finish or award of purse money that may result from a subsequent ruling by the judges or commission shall not affect the pari-mutuel payout. (KY Admin. Regs. §1:125(10)(4))

Instead, the plaintiffs want Baffert and Zedan to pay them the amounts they would have collected if their tickets on Mandaloun had been winners. Their primary claim is that Baffert and Zedan violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Control Act of 1970 (RICO)*, a statute originally intended as a way to make it easier for the federal government to prosecute the Mafia, but one that in the intervening 50 years has been deployed against virtually every imaginable kind of business. RICO was not, however, one of the bases for the pending federal prosecution of trainers Jason Servis, Jorge Navarro and others; that indictment relies almost entirely on federal food and drug laws, not racketeering. To date, the only racing-related RICO cases involve illegal gambling, not drugging violations. Continue reading at source »

*Passed in 1970, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a federal law designed to combat organized crime in the United States. It allows prosecution and civil penalties for racketeering activity performed as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise.

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Steve Zorn recently retired after 20 years as racing manager of the Castle Village Farm thoroughbred partnership. He was vice president and, for 14 years, a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, and the author of the Business of Racing blog. In his non-racing life, Steve has been a lawyer, law school professor, United Nations technical adviser, newspaper reporter, union organizer and assistant director of minerals and energy in the government of Papua New Guinea.


Bob Baffert (left) and Amr Zedan (right) following the 2021 Kentucky Derby. The horse was first past the post, but was disqualified following a positive post race drug test.
Creator: Andy Lyons | Credit: Getty Images

Robert A. (“Bob”) Baffert is an American racehorse trainer who trained the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify. Baffert’s horses have won seven Kentucky Derbies*, seven Preakness Stakes, three Belmont Stakes and three Kentucky Oaks.
*His 7th Ky Derby”winner”, Medina Spirit, was disqualified.

Amr Zedan is a Saudi Arabian businessman, philanthropist, and an international polo player. He is the founder of Lexington-based racing venture, Zedan Racing Stables. Amr Zedan’s horse, Medina Spirit, recently won Kentucky Derby on May 1, 2021, but was disqualified following a positive for a banned substance.
Owner, Medina Spirit

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