Federal court rules against famed horse trainer Bob Baffert in his lawsuit against Churchill Downs
By Michelle Watson, CNN
(CNN) — A federal court in Kentucky has rejected the final remaining claim in a lawsuit brought by Hall of Fame horse trainer Bob Baffert against the company that runs the Kentucky Derby, according to court filings.
Baffert sued Churchill Downs Inc. in 2022 after it suspended him for two years following the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit’s failed drug test.
Baffert had argued that his suspension had a negative effect on his business and reputation.
Earlier this year, the judge in the Western District of Kentucky denied his request for an injunction lifting a two-year ban imposed by Churchill Downs, and dismissed all of Baffert’s claims but one. In the only remaining claim, Baffert alleged that Churchill Downs breached his due process rights in his Kentucky-issued horse trainer’s license by suspending him.
The Wednesday memorandum by US District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings determined that any injury to Baffert didn’t amount to a due process violation, because he couldn’t prove he was deprived of a property interest.
Baffert had argued that his state-issued trainer’s license was rendered valueless by the suspension by Churchill Downs.
In the ruling, the judge said “undisputed evidence demonstrates that Baffert’s license is not valueless,” like the fact that he was able to use it “to win over $1 million racing horses in the Commonwealth” at other racetracks. The judge also noted that he could continue to use his Kentucky license to train horses, enter his horses in races and apply for stall occupancy, even beyond racing.
CNN has reached out to Baffert’s attorney for comment.
Baffert became the winningest trainer in Preakness Stakes history after National Treasure crossed the finish line first at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, on Saturday.
Earlier Saturday, Baffert was in the headlines when Havnameltdown, a horse he trained, was euthanized after suffering a serious front left leg injury in an undercard race.
“Totally wiped out after that horse got hurt,” an emotional Baffert said after National Treasure’s victory. “The emotions of this game. There’s so many responsibilities a trainer has… To win this, losing that horse today really hurt but I’m happy for (jockey) Johnny (Velasquez) he got the win. I have a great team, I got my boys with me. I’m sorry but it’s been a very emotional day.”
Baffert, who has trained more Triple Crown race winners (17) than any other trainer, was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 2009. He has won the trainer of the year award four times.
Medina Spirit, who was a 12-to-1 favorite at post time, was first across the line in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. But a blood sample revealed betamethasone – an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid sometimes used to relieve joint pain – in the horse on race day, which is not allowed under Kentucky equine protocols.
Baffert said a dermatitis ointment might have been to blame for the test result.
After Medina Spirit’s blood test, Baffert was also suspended by the New York Racing Association, a ban that ended in January. He missed the Preakness in 2022 because he was banned at the time by Maryland’s horse racing commission.
Medina Spirit collapsed and died during a workout in December 2021. His Kentucky Derby victory was nullified in February 2022.
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CNN’s Steve Almasy and Homero De la Fuente contributed to this report.