Churchill Downs draws a hard line with Baffert

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.

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Baffert also got booted by the New York Racing Association, which will review his suspension this month.

Image: Louisville Courier Journal

Tuesday’s Horse

Official Blog of the Fund for Horses

6 thoughts on “Churchill Downs draws a hard line with Baffert”

  1. Horse racing guards their dirty secrets well and killing a racehorse for insurance money has been going on for a long time.
    For example, a former dentist by the name of Dr. Joseph James Brown openly admitted, on February 27, 1990, that he was paid money to kill racehorses in Kentucky for the sole purpose of collecting on their insurance policies.
    He was actually caught just about to administer a lethal dose into a racehorse.
    That one got saved and the entire horse racing industry went silent, and tried to mask it as much as they could instead of being outraged and demand transparency into whether or not a racehorse is insured.
    Incidentally, the owners of said racehorses were informed, culpable and consented to the scheme.
    Yes all those owners who claim to “love them like family” really didn’t because their love of money took precedent.
    On January 30, 1984 about 18 people who were part of organized crime were all involved with killing racehorses for insurance money and they were racehorse owner and trainers.
    They killed 9 racehorses and collected about $224,000 which back in 1984 was a lot of money.
    They made it appear like it was “accidents.”
    They were also involved with race fixing and doping mostly on the New Jersey circuit.
    Again, true to industry form, the so-called racehorse lovers went silent and didn’t use this opportunity to demand whether a racehorse is ensured or not.
    It’s a known fact among the inner circles of horse racing that Bob Baffert makes it his mission to ensure that the equine insurance policy will be paid out when they suffer breakdowns.
    For example, WHATASONG sold for 1.9 million at the Keeneland sale back in 2005 and was insured for that at the time of his death.
    WHATASONG suffered immensely because he didn’t die right away, in fact, he shattered his sesamoids and although he should have been euthanized right away Baffert ordered the colt back to his barn and this is where the story splits in two.
    BB’s public persona claimed that they did everything they could to save him appearing to be a hero, but behind the scenes Baffert was frantically on the phone to the insurance company and the owners Bob & Bev Lewis demanding an answer from the insurance company to ensure that the policy would be paid out if they went ahead and euthanized WHATASONG.
    This translated to WHATASONG suffering for hours while the insurance company was making a decision and, of course, Baffert and his vet (I think Dr. Baker) was reminding the insurance company that the racehorse was suffering and that they needed to decide.
    True to Baffert style he got his way and WHATASONG ended up under a tarp that day as a baby 2 yo. with the insurance cash out ensured.
    Some track vets will disclose on their track report whether a racehorse was insured, but the deeply corrupt CHRB under the direction of Dr. Rick Arthur cites “privacy” when it comes to disclosing this detail the last time I checked.
    If a racehorse dies on a track, which is considered a public domain due to the millions in public wagering, shouldn’t they be legally compelled to disclose whether a racehorse had an insurance policy or not?
    Another thing, why would an owner (who supposedly cares about their racehorse) continue to send racehorses to a trainer who has killed one of their previous horses or who died while under his/her custody?
    Doesn’t that seem odd to any of you or is there a quiet business arrangement and understanding that if the racehorse gets injured (remember they keep their medical records secret) knowing that the horse can no longer perform at the upper levels or once they know a racehorse isn’t talented enough to be their Derby hopeful they tend to mysteriously die while the equine insurance policy is active?
    An equine insurance policy gets downgraded if an injury is disclosed or if the racehorse isn’t performing so why not curtail that situation and collect the money knowing that they are just disposable trash and they can go out and buy another one?
    There is a distinct pattern emerging and it’s more common in these top level barns.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As a former Owner/Trainer I would like to make a few things clear.
    Any other Trainer, including myself, who would be caught with even 1 doping positive, with the drugs that Baffert was using on his racehorses, would have been immediately suspended.
    There are 2 sets of rules in horse racing.
    One set of rules for about 90% of Trainers and another set of rules for about 10% of Trainers.
    The 10 per-centers are Trainers like Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Mike Maker, Linda Rice etc.
    These are Trainers who are multiple doping violators who have been given their Due Process and were still found guilty.
    Yet, they either never get suspended or their repercussions are so minimal that it doesn’t even scratch the surface.
    They also kill lots of racehorses some under highly suspicious circumstances surrounding equine insurance policies.
    Linda Rice is supposed to be suspended, yet, there she is training and racing like nothing happened.
    May I remind people that Linda Rice was involved with serious criminal activity, given ample Due Process of Law including her attorneys and nothing has happened.
    She’s still claiming racehorses that have made hundreds of thousands of dollars (Chris and Dave $715,000), are past their hey day, have well-earned a soft landing, a safe retirement only to be claimed by Linda Rice to be squeezed dry or die – a true parasite no doubt.
    Which brings me to my next point.
    It’s reportedly rumored from reliable sources that Medina Spirit had an active Equine Insurance Policy in place the morning of his death that took into consideration his value as a Stallion and would maintain that level (supposedly 20 million) as long as he performed.
    Now with Baffert and his vet under scrutiny and a positive under his belt did they know that he wouldn’t perform the way he used to when Baffert can’t get away with cheating anymore?
    Every scenario seems to point to the fact that Medina Spirit had to die, was possibly sent out to die, was given dope in the stall to maliciously kill him for a huge payout.
    This seems to be a high possibility although an allegation at this point.
    So before anybody defends this doping cheater whom, by the way, puts hundreds of honest owner/trainers out of business and who has turned away countless people from horse racing his damage goes well beyond the obvious.
    How is a Trainer in the 90% group going to explain to an owner, who has put out hundreds of thousands of dollars, the repeated doping violations that they themselves can’t get away with.
    It’s obvious to me and many others that Baffert and the aforementioned Trainers are training for the Racing Commissioners/Associations who have their organized scheme all wrapped up.
    We left the business realizing that most of us are being used to fill races for them because you don’t have a hope in hell of winning a race against this high level of, what seems to be, organized crime.
    Now I take a strong stance against horse racing in its totality and I advocate for it to end.
    There are no reforms or safety protocols that will change the fundamental fact that racehorses are voiceless, defenseless victims of these parasitic monsters and they continue to die every single damn day.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This is very interesting. I have been trying to find information on horse racing insurance fraud in recent years but haven’t come up with much other than the older cases that are documented (e.g. Aladar). Nothing would surprise me in the least when it comes to Baffert and the rest of the horse racing mafia that seems to exist solely for the almighty dollar. Disgraceful.


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