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Bob Baffert Suspended for Another Year at Churchill Downs

2FMMAKN Elmont, NY, USA. 10th May, 2021. Thoroughbred Horse Trainer Bob Baffert, shown here at Belmont Park.He has been suspended by Church Downs, following a positive test of a steroid betamethasone, in Derby winner Medina Spriit. Credit: C. Neil Decrescenzo/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News

On July 3, Churchill Downs extended its two-year suspension on racing trainer Bob Baffert through 2024, citing “continued concerns regarding the threat to the safety and integrity of racing he poses to CDI-owned racetracks.”

This ruling would bar his participation in the Kentucky Derby next year and in other races at Churchill Downs-owned tracks. 

Baffert’s status, according to CDI Inc., the company that hosts the Kentucky Derby, will be reevaluated again in 2025. This ruling is just the latest chapter in the more than two-year-long saga surrounding Baffert’s Derby-winning horse, Medina Spirit, who failed a drug test following his victory in 2021.

If its ruling is to change, CDI Inc. indicated in a statement, a change in the Baffert’s behavior would be required. “Mr. Baffert continues to pedal a false narrative concerning the failed drug test of Medina Spirit,” said the statement, which went on to cite Baffert’s repeated rules violations and his continued denial of any wrongdoing.

“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,” CDI said.

In his 40-year-long career, Baffert’s horses have failed 30 drug tests, though Medina Spirit’s loss of the 2021 Kentucky Derby title was undoubtedly his most scrutinized violation. That year marked only the second time in the Derby’s 150-year-long history that a winner was disqualified. 

In the time since, Baffert has continued to train horses at other tracks in Kentucky, accruing more than $1 million in earnings since his latest lawsuit against CDI Inc., which was dismissed in May of this year. Baffert currently sits third on the list of trainer career earnings, with purses totaling more than $344 million. He has been trainer of the year four times, with more than six Derby wins to his name.

Tragically, Medina Spirit died in December of 2021 when he collapsed during a workout. The Thoroughbred was officially stripped of his Derby title the following year after a routine post-race blood sample tested positive for the anti-inflammatory corticosteroid, betamethasone, which is used for joint injection treatments in horses. Its presence on race days is not allowed under Kentucky equine protocols.

Baffert has long denied that that Medina Spirit ever received betamethasone injections, instead blaming Otomax—a topical treatment commonly used to treat external bacterial (yeast-based) ear infections in dogs—saying it had been administered topically to treat a skin infection. 

On Monday, Baffert took to Twitter to vent his frustration: 

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