Churchill Downs Incorporated has suspended Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert for two years—through the conclusion of the 2023 spring meet at Churchill Downs—the Louisville company announced June 2.
The suspension comes in the wake of news of a failed secondary test on the Baffert-trained Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) winner Medina Spirit , who tested positive for the corticosteroid betamethasone, a therapeutic medication that is prohibited on race day. The split sample ordered by Baffert confirmed the positive, news of which was made public Wednesday morning by attorneys representing Baffert and owner Amr Zedan of Zedan Racing Stables.
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.
Betamethasone is a Class C drug that is allowed in Kentucky as a therapeutic. It is typically injected into joints as an anti-inflammatory. However, state rules call for at least a 14-day withdrawal time. Any level of detection on race day is a violation of Kentucky’s equine medication protocols and CDI’s terms and conditions for racing. Recommended sanctions include disqualification of the horse.
The initial post-race test conducted by Industrial Laboratories for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission revealed that Medina Spirit was positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone per milliliter of blood or plasma, a fact Baffert revealed May 9 in a press conference at Churchill Downs. The second test revealed 25 picograms of betamethasone per milliliter of blood or plasma, attorney W. Craig Robertson III said in a statement released Wednesday.
“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.”
CDI reserves the right to extend Baffert’s suspension if there are additional violations in any racing jurisdiction.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has the sole authority to disqualify Medina Spirt as the winner of Kentucky Derby 147, and is pursuing the completion of its investigation of the matter in accordance with its rules and regulations. A hearing will be scheduled by the stewards, at which Baffert’s attorneys will be permitted to present.
Baffert maintains Medina Spirit was treated for dermatitis with the topical ointment Otomax and was not injected with betamethasone.