Anticipating a lawsuit that would challenge its ban of the Hall of Fame trainer, the track accused Baffert of “inventing excuses.”
Joe Drape, reporting for The New York Times reports:
With the Kentucky Derby approaching, Baffert has threatened to sue Churchill Downs and Carstanjen if the track in Louisville, Ky., does not lift the two-year ban he was given last May after last year’s winner, Medina Spirit, failed a drug test.
In a wide-ranging draft complaint obtained by The New York Times, Baffert says that his right to due process was violated by the ban and that he has been unlawfully excluded from Churchill Downs and America’s greatest race.
Baffert wants a preliminary injunction that would keep Churchill Downs from denying his horses entry into races there and at Turfway Park, in Florence, Ky., and from “prohibiting him from earning points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby,” according to the complaint that has yet to be filed. The document also demands that the company recognize qualifying points that his horses have already earned. Baffert also seeks millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages.
“Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in Thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby,” Churchill Downs Incorporated said in a statement. “Failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of the horses and jockeys, the integrity of our sport and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby and all who participate,” the statement added. “Churchill Downs will not tolerate it.”
CEO Bill Carstanjen said the threatened case was “completely meritless.” He said that Churchill Downs Inc. is a private company and that on April 7, 2021, Baffert signed an agreement — as the track requires all horse trainers to do — that he would follow its conduct and medication rules.
Carstanjen emphasized that Baffert was a repeat offender. Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, a corticosteroid. It is the same substance that was found in the Baffert-trained filly Gamine after she finished third in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks, a showcase for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs. Baffert’s horses have failed 30 drug tests over four decades, including five in a recent 13-month period.
Last month, Medina Spirit died of an apparent heart attack after a timed workout. A necropsy is underway to determine more details about his death. A final report will be made public upon its conclusion.
Baffert also got booted by the New York Racing Association, which will review his suspension this month.
Image: Louisville Courier Journal
Official Blog of the Fund for Horses