The Churchill Downs suspension of trainer Bob Baffert has been extended through 2024, the company announced Monday, citing «continued concerns regarding the threat to safety and racing integrity he poses to CDI-owned racetracks.»
Churchill Downs Inc. made the decision to prevent 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 post-race drug test and was later stripped of the win.
The company said Baffert continues to «sell a false narrative» about the horse’s failed drug test.
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«Prior to that race, Mr. Baffert entered into an agreement with Churchill Downs stating that he was responsible for understanding the rules of racing in Kentucky and would abide by them,» the statement read.
«The test results clearly show that he failed to comply, and his continued conduct reveals his continued disregard for the rules and regulations that ensure the safety of horses and jockeys, as well as the integrity and fairness of racing conducted at our facilities. No A coach unwilling to accept responsibility for multiple drug test failures at our most high-profile races can be trusted to prevent future misconduct.»
The company added that Baffert’s status would be reassessed after 2024.
Baffert defended himself after the Churchill Downs decision.
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«I cannot understand the latest action by Churchill Downs to suspend me,» his statement posted on social media read. “From the moment I found out about Medina Spirit’s post-race positive, now more than two years ago, I was committed to finding out how it could have happened, given that we had never injected betamethasone into Medina Spirit’s joints, which confirm veterinary records. A review of our treatment records showed that we used a topical ointment called Otomax for a skin infection, and post-race testing of the sample confirmed that the positive test came from a topical application.
«I have been open, honest and forthcoming about these events. I have acknowledged that our treatment was positive and have reported to the Kentucky Racing Commission that we have treated Medina Spirit in this manner.»
«I have been informed by my lawyers that the use of Otomax is allowed under the rules, and this issue is currently being adjudicated by the Racing Commission in a case before them. In no way does this imply ‘disregard for the rules’.» ‘
«In the interest of the sport we all love, I have not publicly commented on this unfortunate episode for an extended period of time, so the suggestion that I ‘continue to sell a false narrative’ is patently false.»
Baffert was back in the Triple Crown mix early in his Preakness year. He was previously suspended from that race and from 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 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.
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«You can’t do it without the ownership group that I have who have supported me through all of this bad, these bad things that have 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.»
Associated Press contributed to this report.