Baffert Ends Appeal of Medina Spirit Kentucky Derby Disqualification

Baffert Ends Appeal of Medina Spirit Kentucky Derby Disqualification
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

Bob Baffert issued a statement Monday evening saying he would drop his appeal of Medina Spirit’s disqualification as winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby. However, the move will not get the Hall of Fame thoroughbred trainer back to Churchill Downs for this year’s Run for the Roses.

Medina Spirit was Baffert’s seventh Derby winner, which broke his tie with Ben Jones for the most, but he announced a week after the historic win that officials notified him the colt failed a drug test. Officials said betamethasone was found in the colt’s system. Racing rules allow for the use of the anti-inflammatory steroid, but not within 14 days of the horse’s next race, and any amount detected in a post-race sample is a violation.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission investigated the matter, a process drawn out by legal filings from Baffert’s attorneys. Racing stewards officially removed Medina Spirit as the Derby winner in February 2022 and promoted Mandaloun, who crossed the wire a half-length back, as the winner.

That decision also led to a $7,500 fine and 90-day suspension for the trainer. The KHRC also ordered Zedan Racing Stable, Medina Spirit’s owner, to forfeit the nearly $1.9 million award from winning the Kentucky Derby. Both the trainer and owner appealed that ruling.

An administrative hearing on the appeal took place last March. On Aug. 22 — at the same meeting the KHRC approved initial Kentucky sports betting licenses — the commission voted to uphold the penalties, prompting Baffert and Zedan to take their appeal to the state courts system.

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‘Focus on the Present and Future’

Baffert’s Monday statement came five months after the commission’s final ruling.

“Zedan Racing owner, Amr Zedan, and I have decided that it is best to positively focus on the present and future that our great sport offers,” Baffert posted on his X social media account. “We thank the KHRC and Churchill Downs for listening and considering our point of view, and we are grateful for the changes and clarity that HISA brings to our sport.”

HISA stands for the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, a governing body developing national guidelines for thoroughbred racing. In a statement to BetKentucky.com, the commission said its lawyers filed a stipulation of dismissal that counsel for all parties involved in the matter signed.

“The parties agreed to dismiss the case in its entirety with prejudice,” the KHRC said. “With this agreement to not pursue any further appeals, the disqualification of Medina Spirit from the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby and the findings of Stewards’ Rulings 22-0009 and 22-0010 are final.”

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Churchill Downs Maintains Baffert Ban

While the commission was investigating the Medina Spirit case, Churchill Downs took matters into its own hands. Churchill Downs Incorporated, which operates TwinSpires Racebook, handed down a two-year suspension to Baffert in June 2021 that barred him from entering horses in the Derby for that time and racing at the Louisville track and others the company owns. The move also prevented any horse he trained from being eligible to earn points for either the Kentucky Derby or Oaks, a race for 3-year-old fillies held annually the day before.

Baffert filed a federal lawsuit to nullify Churchill’s decision, but a federal judge dismissed that case last May.

Last July, as the two-year ban was about to end, Churchill Downs announced it was extending his exile through the end of 2024, which would cover Kentucky Derby 150 to be held on May 4, as the company said the trainer kept pushing a “false narrative” about Medina Spirit’s drug test.

Churchill Downs also amended the Road to the Kentucky Derby guidelines to stipulate any prospective entrant in the stable of a barred trainer must be moved to a new trainer no later than Jan. 29 for those horses to be eligible.

“Today’s dismissal of appeal does not change the current suspension or deadline to transfer horses for the upcoming 150th Kentucky Derby,” Churchill Downs said in a statement late Monday.

Potential horses that could move to new trainers within the next week include Muth, a Zedan-owned colt who won the Jan. 6 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita; Nysos, who won the Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar in November; and Coach Prime, another Zedan colt who finished third in the Los Alamitos Futurity last month. As the race draws closer, BetKentucky.com will have the latest Kentucky Derby odds.

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Author

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.

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