Bob Baffert loses federal case against Churchill Downs ban

Bob Baffert and Medina Spirit
Bob Baffert and Medina Spirit(WAVE 3 News)
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 1:42 PM PST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A federal court has ruled against a preliminary injunction to remove horse trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from Churchill Downs on Friday.

In a ruling handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings, Baffert’s attorneys failed to demonstrate why the injunction against the suspension should be imposed.

The two-year suspension will remain and horses trained by Baffert will not be able to enter to run in the 149th Kentucky Derby.

Grady Jennings said in the ruling Baffert “is the only trainer whose horses have tested positive in back-to-back marquee races on [Churchill Downs Inc.] tracks,” and that Churchill Downs claimed failure to punish trainers could harm the track’s reputation.

If the injunction was approved, trainers who have already entered points into the Kentucky Derby and were qualified to race could be pushed out of competition.

“There is a strong public interest in deterring misconduct on CDI’s tracks,” Grady Jennings said in the ruling.

The nearly two-year-long legal battle began following the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby, where Baffert’s horse Medina Spirit finished first and later tested positive for a banned race-day substance.

Betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory, was found in Medina Spirit’s blood sample. Baffert said the sample came from a topical ointment which was used for treating a skin condition.

Medina Spirit was disqualified as the winner and Churchill Downs issued a two-year suspension to Baffert following the results of the drug test.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission upheld the suspension in a unanimous vote in March 2022.

Baffert appealed the decision, with his team arguing the betamethasone sample comes from a topical ointment and that the KHRC only prohibiting the substance if it is injected.

With the suspension still in place, Baffert will not be able to participate in the Kentucky Derby until 2024 at the earliest.