Churchill Downs bans Bob Baffert for two years following Medina Spirit positive sample test

Churchill Downs announced Wednesday the suspension of Bob Baffert for two years effective immediately through the conclusion of the 2023 Spring Meet at Churchill Downs Racetrack.

The suspension prohibits Baffert, or any trainer directly or indirectly employed by Bob Baffert Racing Stables, from entering horses in races or applying for stall occupancy at all CDI-owned racetracks. This decision follows the confirmation by attorneys representing Bob Baffert of the presence of betamethasone, a prohibited race-day substance, in Medina Spirit’s bloodstream on the day of the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby in violation of the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s equine medication protocols and CDI’s terms and conditions for racing.

“CDI has consistently advocated for strict medication regulations so that we can confidently ensure that horses are fit to race and the races are conducted fairly,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of CDI. “Reckless practices and substance violations that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated.

"Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby. Given these repeated failures over the last year, including the increasingly extraordinary explanations, we firmly believe that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our duty and responsibility.”  

Bob Baffert in April 2021. (Photo: Pat McDonogh / Courier Journal)

CDI reserves the right to extend Baffert’s suspension if there are additional violations in any racing jurisdiction.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (“KHRC”) has the sole authority to disqualify Medina Spirt as the winner of Kentucky Derby 147. It is the understanding of CDI that the KHRC is pursuing the completion of its investigation of this matter in accordance with its rules and regulations. 

A lawyer for trainer Bob Baffert said Wednesday a split sample of Medina Spirit’s drug test following the Kentucky Derby confirmed the presence of betamethasone, further jeopardizing the horse’s status as the winner of the Run for the Roses.

Craig Robertson, Baffert’s lawyer, released a statement saying the split sample confirmed 25 picograms of betamethasone in Medina Spirit’s system.

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“There is other testing that is being conducted, including DNA testing,” Robertson wrote. “We expect this additional testing to confirm that the presence of betamethasone was from the topical ointment, Otomax, and not an injection. At the end of the day, we anticipate this case to be about the treatment of Medina Spirit’s skin rash with Otomax.”

On May 9, Churchill Downs announced Medina Spirit would be disqualified as the Kentucky Derby winner if a second test — called a “split sample” — came back positive. Runner-up Mandaloun, trained by Louisville native Brad Cox, would be declared the winner.

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