Churchill Downs extends trainer Bob Baffert's ban through 2024
Churchill Downs is extending Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s suspension through 2024, keeping the two-time Triple Crown winner from entering horses in the Kentucky Derby and other races for an additional year.
Churchill Downs Inc. announced Monday it was continuing Baffert’s ban at least through the 2024 calendar year, citing “continued concerns regarding the threat to the safety and integrity of racing he poses to CDI-owned racetracks.”
In a statement, Churchill Downs said Baffert continues to “peddle false narratives” about Medina Spirit’s failed drug test for a steroid, betamethasone, that is legal in Kentucky but is banned on race day.
“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.
The company went on to say it will re-evaluate Baffert’s status after 2024.
Baffert, in a statement posted on Twitter, said he was at a loss to understand the decision, defending using a topical ointment on Medina Spirit to treat a skin infection and arguing that it did not involve a disregard of 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 false narratives’ is patently false,” Baffert said.
Asked for further comment, a CDI spokesperson deferred to the statement.
Medina Spirit collapsed and died in December 2021 after a workout in California.
Baffert's suspension comes with horse racing at a crossroads, following the deaths of 12 horses within a month at Churchill Downs that led the storied track to look into causes, while the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority launched a parallel investigation. Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. recently was reinstated by Churchill Downs after two of his horses died in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby this year.
Baffert returned to the Triple Crown trail earlier this year at the Preakness after being 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 National Treasure won the Preakness, giving him a record-breaking eighth victory in the race hours 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.”
Baffert's team earlier this year sued Churchill Downs and sought a temporary injunction to stop the suspension, arguing the track never provided advance notice or reached out to explain the two-year ban. Baffert, the face of the sport and its most visible figure, argued the situation had hurt his reputation.
Churchill Downs pushed to have the case dismissed, citing nine medication violations by Baffert-trained horses as justification.