A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Horse Racing Commission upholds Bob Baffert suspension on Derby-disqualified Medina Spirit

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Friday unanimously upheld the suspension and fine of thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert, amid allegations that Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit had banned drugs in his system, after failing a drug test taken shortly after the race.

After finding the drug Betamethasone in the horse’s system, which is banned on race day, and saying it was Baffert’s fourth medication violation in a one-year period, the Board of Stewards last month imposed a 90-day suspension and fined him $7,500. Medina Spirit was also disqualified as the Derby winner.

Bob Baffert

Baffert’s 90-day suspension will run March 8 through June 5. During that time the stewards ruled, “he is denied the privileges of all facilities under the jurisdiction of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The entry of all horses owned or trained by Baffert is denied, pending transfer to persons acceptable to the stewards.”

Churchill Downs has barred Baffert from entering horses in the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derbies, and the New York Racing Association has prohibited him from entering horses at Belmont, Saratoga, and Aqueduct tracks.
After the suspension was upheld, Marty Irby, Executive Director of Animal Wellness Action issued a statement saying:

“Bob Baffert is the Lance Armstrong of horse racing and has riddled the sport with scandal after scandal unchecked for years. We applaud the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for upholding Baffert’s suspension and believe making an example of America’s most embattled serial violator can be a key turning point for U.S. horse racing.

“Just like the cockfighters indicted earlier this week in Kentucky, Baffert has gone far too long without facing the consequences of his actions against the welfare of the voiceless we all care so deeply about.” 

Baffert’s attorney, Clark Brewster also issued a statement, calling the KHRC decision a sudden, arbitrary departure from its own 100-year precedent, and the practice of courts nationwide.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of a continuing coordinated attack against Bob by powerful forces that are rife with ethical and business conflicts and that want to keep Bob’s horses from competing against theirs at the track. We look forward to obtaining a stay in an impartial, unbiased court of law.

“Let’s also remember that the facts and law in the overall case are on Bob’s side. Fact: Kentucky regulates only the injectable form of betamethasone acetate, and not the topical betamethasone valerate. Fact: Medina Spirit was treated with an ointment, not an injection. And fact: the amount detected could not have impacted the horse’s performance or the outcome of the Kentucky Derby.”

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