LOUISVILLE, Ky., March 1, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Attorneys for the world-renowned thoroughbred race horse trainer Bob Baffert filed a lawsuit today 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.
The complaint 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.
Please find the complaint and related materials here.
“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 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.
On May 1, 2021, the Baffert-trained thoroughbred racehorse Medina Spirit won first place in the 147th Kentucky Derby. After the race, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) ran its customary two-step testing of the winning horse to ensure no medical violations occurred. The preliminary test result for Medina Spirit showed a positive for betamethasone, a legal, therapeutic drug commonly used in the routine care of horses.
Based on the initial test – and without further exculpatory information that would develop later – CDI rushed to judgment, announcing that the preliminary finding constituted a medical violation and suspending Baffert and his horses from racing at its tracks. Sparked by CDI’s actions, CDI and its allies launched a negative smear campaign against Baffert that spread in the media and to other horse racing proceedings, Brewster said.
As detailed in the complaint, Baffert was given no opportunity to rebut the CDI allegations or appeal the decision, a violation of Baffert’s constitutional right to due process. In addition, the complaint states that the suspension decision was not CDI’s to make as KHRC is the proper agency charged with regulating Kentucky horse racing.
Meanwhile, as further testing and analysis of the Medina Spirit sample demonstrated, the form of betamethasone detected at trace levels was topical and not injectable. Medina Spirit had a skin rash before the 147th Kentucky Derby that was treated with Otomax, a topical ointment containing a form of betamethasone that KHRC does not regulate. KHRC only regulates a betamethasone type that is injectable.
Although KHRC’s testing did not distinguish between injectable and topical betamethasone, subsequent analysis has definitively proven that Medina Spirit had been administered the topical ointment variety, the type that KHRC would not regulate and would not classify as a violation. A recent copycat decision by KHRC to suspend Baffert is currently being appealed to a Kentucky state court, and Baffert expects his name to be cleared when his case is before an impartial, unbiased court of law.
The complaint also highlights Baffert’s suspension by CDI as a targeted effort to eliminate a competitor. For example, the complaint states that CDI Chair Rankin owns several horses and has business relationships that would stand to benefit if Baffert were not a competitor. The complaint also points to other financial conflicts to underscore the fact that CDI is an illegitimate authority to impose and enforce Baffert’s suspension.
“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.”
Baffert is recognized as one of the most accomplished trainers in the history of thoroughbred horseracing. His trainees have won the Triple Crown twice and the Kentucky Derby – the greatest race in the United States – a record seven times. He has also been inducted into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame, the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame, the Lone Star Park Hall of Fame, and the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame. In 2015, Baffert was named March of Dimes Sportsman of the Year, and, in 2010, he received the University of Arizona Alumni Portraits of Excellence Award.
Caroline Beckmann – Trident DMG
Lincoln Zweig – Trident DMG
SOURCE Brewster & De Angelis, PLLC