Trainer Bob Baffert’s Churchill Downs suspension was extended through 2024, the company announced Monday, citing “continued concerns regarding the threat to the safety and integrity of racing he poses to CDI-owned racetracks.”
Churchill Downs Inc. made the decision to keep Baffert from entering horses in the Kentucky Derby and other races for an additional calendar year. The legendary trainer was suspended for two years after 2021 Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a postrace drug test and was later stripped of the victory.
The company said Baffert continues to “peddle a false narrative” about the horse’s failed drug test.
“Prior to that race, Mr. Baffert signed an agreement with Churchill Downs which stated that he was responsible for understanding the rules of racing in Kentucky and that he would abide by them,” the statement read.
“The results of the tests clearly show that he did not comply, and his ongoing conduct reveals his continued disregard for the rules and regulations that ensure horse and jockey safety, as well as the integrity and fairness of the races conducted at our facilities. A trainer who is unwilling to accept responsibility for multiple drug test failures in our highest-profile races cannot be trusted to avoid future misconduct.”
The company added that Baffert’s status would be reevaluated after 2024.
Baffert defended himself after Churchill Downs’ decision.
NORTH CAROLINA BECOMES 28TH STATE TO LEGALIZE SPORTS, HORSE RACING BETTING
“I am at a loss to understand Churchill Downs’ latest action to suspend me,” his statement posted to social media read. “From the moment I learned of Medina Spirit’s post-race positive – now more than two years ago – I committed to find out how it could have occurred, given that we had never injected Medina Spirits joints with betamethasone, which the veterinary records confirm. A review of our treatment records showed we used a topical ointment called Otomax for a skin infection, and post-race testing of the sample confirmed the positive test came from a topical application.
“I have been open, honest and forthcoming about these events. I have acknowledged that our treatment led to the positive and I informed the Kentucky Racing Commission that we had treated Medina Spirit this way.
“I have been advised by my attorneys that the use of Otomax is permitted under the rules, and this issue is presently being adjudicated by the Racing Commission in a case presently before them. In no way does this involved a ‘disregard for the rules.’
“In the interests of the sport we all love, I have made no public comments on this unfortunate episode for an extended period of time so the suggestion that I ‘continue to peddle a false narrative’ is patently false.”
Baffert was back in the Triple Crown mix earlier his year at the Preakness. He was previously suspended from that race and the Belmont in 2022 in connection with a different, 90-day ban in Kentucky that Maryland and New York honored.
His horse, National Treasure, won the Preakness, giving him a record-breaking eighth victory in the race after another 3-year-old horse he trained broke his left front leg while racing and was euthanized on the track.
“You can’t do it without the group of owners that I have that have stuck by me through all this negative, this bad stuff that’s happened to me in the last few years,” Baffert said after winning the Preakness in May. “And they’re loyal, they stuck with me, and I give them all the credit.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.