UPDATE: Appeals court orders dismissal of horse trainer Bob Baffert case

Report: a panel of three judges turned down Baffert

UPDATE (4/18/22) – Horse trainer Bob Baffert has been dealt another blow with regards to litigation over an ongoing 90-day suspension ordered by Kentucky Stewards, in a recent court decision. According to the BloodHorse, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ordered outright dismissal of the cases he brought to the appellate court.

According to the BloodHorse, the orders, entered April 15, mark Baffert’s second defeat before the appellate court. Baffert’s motion for interlocutory relief and a separate appeal have been turned down.

The BloodHorse reports the three-judge panel said the motion addressed the denial by Wingate of a temporary injunction but not his denial for a stay of suspension under Kentucky’s statutory scheme; and that Wingate did not abuse his discretion in denying the temporary injunction. The separate appeal was deemed superfluous. According to the BloodHorse, the court said its order of dismissal is not a ruling on the merits of the overall case.

Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action, issued the following statement:

“We applaud the Kentucky Court of Appeals for their outright dismissal of the Baffert case, hope the delivery of this fifth loss will be the final blow, and that the notorious trainer will concede defeat, put the welfare of the horses first, and allow American horse racing to get back on track as the 148th Run for the Roses approaches.

“For far too long Bob Baffert’s scandals have completely engulfed and overshadowed the so-called ‘Sport of Kings,’ and if Baffert truly wants Thoroughbred horse racing to continue being defined as a legitimate American sport, then he’ll step aside until his suspension is over, and allow other trainers, breeders, owners, and jockeys the opportunity to enjoy a clean Triple Crown without his controversy in 2022.”

Hall of Fame trainer Baffert’s 90-day suspension from the sport began earlier this month. The suspension means Baffert can’t enter any of his horses in a race in the United States.

Baffert appealed the stewards suspension to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission resulting in a hearing scheduled for April 18, 2022. Baffert’s appeal has now been moved to June 28.

As ABC36 has reported, Baffert was suspended after his horse, ‘Medina Spirit,’ tested positive for a banned substance after winning the 2021 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The horse was ultimately disqualified and the derby awarded to the second place finisher.

The colt died of a suspected heart attack while training at Santa Anita last December.

UPDATE: (4/4/2022)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s 90-day suspension from the sport began Monday.  The suspension needs Baffert can’t enter any of his horses in a race in the United States.

Baffert is appealing the stewards suspension to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.  A hearing is scheduled April 18, 2022.

Baffert was suspended after his horse, ‘Medina Spirit,’ tested positive for a banned substance after winning the 2021 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville.  The horse was ultimately disqualified and the derby awarded to the second place finisher.

The colt died of a suspected heart attack while training at Santa Anita last December.

 

UPDATE: (4/1/2022)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Court of Appeals on Friday declined to issue an emergency injunction that would have stayed a 90-day suspension handed down by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, according to court records.

The appeals court ruled it didn’t find cause to issue the emergency injunction and said the larger case appealing the racing commission’s decision to deny a stay would be assigned to a three-judge panel following expiration of the response time provided in the civil rules.

With this denial from the court of appeals, it’s likely Baffert will be denied the ability to enter horses at any track in the United States beginning Monday, April 4.

Baffert’s suspension came from Kentucky stewards after his horse, ‘Medina Spirit,’ was disqualified as the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner after testing positive following the race for an anti-inflammatory drug that’s banned on race day.

Baffert is appealing his suspension to the racing commission, which is scheduled to take up the case on April 18.

Separately, Baffert has been banned by Churchill Downs Inc. from all its tracks through the 2023 Kentucky Derby.  Baffert filed a lawsuit challenging the ban last month.  There is a hearing scheduled April 15 in that case.

Last week, Baffert transferred four of his top 3-year old colts to other trainers.

 

UPDATE: (3/4/2022) – LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – In a 10-to-0 vote with 3 abstaining due to conflicts of interest, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission denied Bob Baffert’s request for a stay of his 90-day suspension while he appeals the ruling.

Baffert’s attorney asking the commission to hold-off on the suspension until there’s a clear understanding of the recent decision by the stewards’ to suspend Baffert and disqualify his 2021 Kentucky Derby winning horse after ‘Medina Spirit’ tested positive for a race day banned anti-inflammatory, betamethasone.

“This isn’t the kind of violation any way you look at it that would warrant a 90 day suspension or that would result in a massive fine, or dis-banning of his barn.  This is an overreaction i believe, but without the factual findings set forth, we don’t know what the stewards’ thought” said Attorney, Clark Brewster.

He went on to say there are no factual findings to warrant the stewards’ ruling.

“This ruling would also prevent him from running in stakes races across America. This is a devastating virtual death blow honestly.”

The commission countered, detailing past incidents of Baffert’s horses testing positive for banned substances, in Arkansas two years ago and in the Kentucky Oaks that same year.

“To put it simply, betamethasone, by any other name is still a banned substance on race day” said General Council Jennifer Wolsing.

The commission noting that Baffert has never taken responsibility for his actions.

“Do we want to give Mr. Baffert an opportunity to repeat his negligence or is it appropriate to deny this stay” added Wolsing.

Baffert now takes his fight to court in Franklin County.

——

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) (3/04.2022)– Kentucky racing officials have denied trainer Bob Baffert’s request to stay his suspension for a failed postrace drug test by Medina Spirit that led to his disqualification as Kentucky Derby winner.

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission board members on Friday voted 10-0 with three abstentions against the stay in a specially called meeting. KHRC stewards last week suspended the Hall of Fame trainer for 90 days with a $7,500 fine and disqualified the now-deceased colt for having the corticosteroid betamethasone in his system last May.

The suspension scheduled to begin March 8 is delayed pending a hearing in Franklin County Circuit Court.

UPDATE (3/1/22 3:00 P.M.)  

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – Attorneys for the world-renowned thoroughbred race horse trainer Bob Baffert filed a lawsuit Tuesday on his behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky against Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI), CDI CEO William C. Carstanjen, and CDI Board Chair R. Alex Rankin, asking a federal judge to overturn Baffert’s suspension from CDI races.

According to the complaint, the suit requests the court to put a stop to CDI’s two-year suspension of Baffert and his horses from CDI competitions, including the Kentucky Derby, and to any future CDI ban, citing that CDI and its leaders have violated Baffert’s constitutional right to due process.

“The notion that Churchill Downs, which is not even tasked with regulating horseracing in Kentucky, could unilaterally ban a trainer by an edict coupled in a press release without having the facts or any semblance of due process should arouse outrage in any fair-minded person,” said Baffert attorney Clark O. Brewster of Brewster & De Angelis.

The historic track suspended Baffert last spring through 2023 and cited a recent spate of failed drug tests by his horses including now-deceased colt Medina Spirit after he won the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs called Baffert’s lawsuit disappointing but not surprising in a statement and said it would fight the suit.

“The facts are clear, and Churchill Downs knows them but refuses to acknowledge them. Churchill Downs knows the post-race test report occurred as a result of the use of a harmless ointment known as Otomax. They know it was prescribed by Medina Spirit’s treating veterinarian and properly and timely reported to the data bank the day it was dispensed. They know no rule was violated, and the ointment could never have enhanced Medina Spirit’s performance. To maintain otherwise is absurd,” Brewster said. “And Churchill Downs and Mr. Carstanjen knew full well that imposing its suspension, based on zero factual or legal support, would give illegitimate credibility to a false narrative about Bob, creating pressure on the Kentucky Race Horsing Commission stewards to take action against him, too.”

“We look forward to showing the court that this selective and arbitrary ban by Churchill Downs, Mr. Carstanjen, and Mr. Rankin is unlawful and unfair – and to ensuring Bob can get back to the winner’s circle in May,” Brewster added.

The complaint also highlights Baffert’s suspension by CDI as a targeted effort to eliminate a competitor.

“This case and the events of the last eight months are about more than just me and my ability to do the work I love. If powerful forces can block me from competing, they can do this to anyone,” Baffert said. “This is a fight for the integrity of our great sport, and we have the facts, the law and the truth on our side.”

You can read the full complaint and related materials HERE.

UPDATE FROM FEBRUARY 25, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was denied a stay on Friday by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) of his 90-day suspension handed down by stewards on Feb. 21. 2022, according to The BloodHorse.

In a separate decision by the KHRC, a stay was also denied on the stewards decision to disqualify ‘Medina Spirit’ from his 2021 Kentucky Derby victory, according to BloodHorse.  Baffert trained Medina Spirit.

According to the report, one of Baffert’s lead attorney’s, Craig Robertson, told Daily Racing Form reporter Matt Hegarty that Baffert’s legal team would appeal the decision to the full KHRC and file a motion in civil court if necessary.

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to run from March 8 to June 5, 2022.  He was also fined $7,500 by the stewards in connection to his Kentucky Derby winning colt, Medina Spirit, testing positive after the race for the corticosteroid betamethasone, which is prohibited on race day in Kentucky.  Earlier this week, the stewards handed down Baffert’s suspension and fine and disqualified Medina Spirit.  The colt collapsed and died after a workout at Santa Anita on Dec. 6, 2021.

Baffert’s lawyers argued in court that Medina Spirit’s positive post-race drug test came not from the injection of betamethasone, but from an anti-fungal ointment, Otomax, used to treat a skin rash on the colt’s hindquarters.  The attorneys citing testing from the New York Equine Drug Testing and Research Laboratory to back up the claims of topical application versus injection.  The stewards’ decision on Feb. 21 made no differentiation.

This is only the second time in Kentucky Derby history that the winning horse was disqualified due to a failed post-race drug test.  In 1968, ‘Dancer’s Image’ was disqualified after testing positive for phenylbutazone, which is a potent nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and cyclooxygenase inhibitor referred to as “bute” for short.  ‘Forward Pass’ was eventually declared the winner after years of litigation.

 

UPDATE POSTED 12:45 P.M. FEB. 21, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Board of Stewards has recommended Medina Spirit be stripped of its Kentucky Derby crown and any winnings from the race and that trainer Bob Baffert be fined $7,500 and be banned from racing in Kentucky for 90 days from March through June.

His attorney said Baffert plans an immediate appeal. “I am very disappointed in the ruling. It runs contrary to the scientifically proven facts and the rules of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. We will be filing an immediate appeal,” Baffert’s attorney, Craig Robertson, said in a statement.

Baffert can appeal the stewards’ ruling. If he does, the case will be heard by a hearing officer who would present findings to the full Kentucky racing commission for consideration.

In response, the Kentucky Derby officially named last year’s runner up as the winner.

In a statement issued Monday, the stewards said:

“On Feb. 14, 2022, Robert A. Baffert and Zedan Racing appeared before the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) Board of Stewards, with counsel, and were afforded due process, as is required by law.”

On Monday, Feb. 21, 2022, the KHRC Board of Stewards issued rulings 22-0009 and 22-0010.

In Ruling 22-0009, the Board of Stewards determined a violation occurred and suspended Robert A. Baffert for 90 days and issued a fine of $7,500.

In Ruling 22-0010, the Board of Stewards determined a violation occurred and disqualified MEDINA SPIRIT from the twelfth race at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2021. “

The Stewards’ ruling 22-0009 can be found at https://khrc.ky.gov/Documents/22-0009%20%20Robert%20A.%20Baffert%20-%20Class%20C.pdf.

The Stewards’ ruling 22-0010 can be found at https://khrc.ky.gov/Documents/22-0010%20%20Amr%20F.%20Zedan%20%20Medina%20Spirit%20DQd.pdf

Animal groups applauded the decision.

“We applaud the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for taking action against American horse racing’s most infamous violator, Bob Baffert, and are pleased to see some justice brought to the tragic life and death of Medina Spirit,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action. “Baffert continues to drag horse racing through the mud in scandal after scandal, and we call on every racing jurisdiction in the nation to hold him accountable by reciprocating the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s suspension in their own state. We’re elated that Baffert won’t be participating in the upcoming 2022 Kentucky Derby and believe the horses will be better off, and the event will have more credibility, without him.”

Animal Wellness Action is a non-profit that advocates for legislation to better protect animals. Irby says he believes Baffert deserved a stronger punishment.

“I don’t think that it’s enough,” Irby siad. “It’s better than I expected honestly. The money is nominal, $7,500 dollars is nothing to someone like Bob Baffert, who’s making millions and millions off of these horses.”

Irby hopes the decision sends a strong message to those who don’t follow the rules and will encourage more racing jurisdictions to take action against Baffert in the future.

“I think it says that horse racing is really waking up and seeing that they cannot continue down the current path, they cannot continue facing these scandals and not deteriorating the public eye,” Irby said.

Gov. Andy Beshear said the Commission made the decision it thought was right.

“I think they made the decision they think is right. Every decision maker at this point has made the same decision and the most important thing for the integrity of the sport was for them to get it right. I’m sure there will be other appeals from here, but the commission and the sport said there are certain things you cannot have in your system as a race horse on race day and it appears, whether intentional or unintentional, that was violated,” Beshear said during a briefing Monday afternoon.

The rulings are the latest in the saga that began on May 1, 2021, when Medina Spirit crossed the finish line first at Churchill Downs but tested positive for a medication that is prohibited during races.

Medina Spirit’s name was still up as the winner earlier Monday but Kentucky Downs said it would be down by the end of the day.

The horse died in December in California after a workout at Santa Anita. A necropsy provided inconclusive results on the cause of death although heart failure is suspected. No substances were found.

Amy Wallot Baffert and his attorneys have argued that the medication was in a topical ointment, Otomax, and that betamethasone was not injected into Medina Spirit. But it isn’t clear that will matter under Kentucky racing regulations.

The 148th running of the Derby is scheduled for May 7, 2022. Churchill Downs has barred Baffert from racing horses at any of its tracks.

In a statement, Churchill Downs said it “recognizes Mandaloun as the winner of the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby and extends our congratulations to owner/breeder Juddmonte, trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux. Winning the Kentucky Derby is one of the most exciting achievements in sports and we look forward to celebrating Mandaloun on a future date in a way that is fitting of this rare distinction.”

 

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED FEB. 14, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — An attorney for Bob Baffert believes the Hall of Famer trainer and embattled Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit “will be fully exonerated” after stating to Kentucky racing stewards that the colt’s failed drug test for a steroid resulted from a prescribed topical salve rather than an injection.

Medina Spirit’s derby win is in jeopardy following the failed postrace drug test for betamethasone last May. Churchill Downs has suspended Baffert for two years following the latest in a recent series of failed tests by his horses. Representatives for Baffert and the horse met Monday with Kentucky Horse Racing Association stewards and contended there was no violation because state rules allow the use of topical salves. Betamethasone is legal in Kentucky, but prohibited on race day.

Attorney Clark Brewster said in a statement Monday night that rules in Kentucky and other jurisdictions restrict only betamethasone acetate or sodium phosphate, which are injected into a horse’s intra-articular joint. Brewster added, “The false narrative regarding this case was sprung early and spread widely by uninformed or malevolent accusers and by careless reporting.”

The hearing was closed to the public and media, and a decision could come this week. A message left with a KHRC spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

Medina Spirit died Dec. 6 after a workout at Santa Anita racetrack in California. Results released last week from a necropsy on the horse revealed no definitive cause of death

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