Churchill Downs bans Bob Baffert for two years after Medina Spirit positive test confirmed

Horse Racing Bob Baffert John Velazquez Churchill Downs ban
Great while it lasted: Bob Baffert will not be welcome at Churchill Downs for two years over Medina Spirit test positive. Photo: Churchill Downs/Coady

By Jon Lees

USA: Bob Baffert will not be able to add to his Kentucky Derby tally until 2024 at the earliest after he was banned from racing and training at Churchill Downs and any of the tracks it owns for two years.

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The announcement was made after Baffert’s attorney confirmed that a second test of a sample taken from Medina Spirit contained traces of a banned raceday substance.

Medina Spirit, first past the post in the Kentucky Derby on May 1, is now set to be disqualified with the race awarded to Mandaloun.

Hall of Fame trainer Baffert, the most recognisable face in world horse racing, was already serving a temporary suspension from both Churchill Downs and New York after Medina Spirit tested positive for the corticosteroid betamethasone, which has been attributed to an ointment used to treat dermatitis.

A statement from Churchill Downs said: “Churchill Downs Incorporated announced today the suspension of Bob Baffert for two years effective immediately through the conclusion of the 2023 Spring Meet at Churchill Downs Racetrack. 

“The suspension prohibits Baffert, or any trainer directly or indirectly employed by Bob Baffert Racing Stables, from entering horses in races or applying for stall occupancy at all CDI-owned racetracks. 

“This decision follows the confirmation by attorneys representing Bob Baffert of the presence of betamethasone, a prohibited race-day substance, in Medina Spirit’s bloodstream on the day of the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby in violation of the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s equine medication protocols and CDI’s terms and conditions for racing.”

Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said: “CDI has consistently advocated for strict medication regulations so that we can confidently ensure that horses are fit to race and the races are conducted fairly.

“Reckless practices and substance violations that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated. 

“Mr Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby. Given these repeated failures over the last year, including the increasingly extraordinary explanations, we firmly believe that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our duty and responsibility.”

Baffert’s suspension could be extended in the event of other violations, said the track as it awaits the completion of the investigation by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which has the sole authority to order Medina Spirit’s disqualification.

Baffert is allowed to race at his home track at Santa Anita for the time being with the track stating it would not be making any decision until the regulatory process was complete.

Baffert’s attorney Craig Robertson said further testing was being carried out, including DNA testing, to confirm an ointment was the source of the substance, and had not been given by injection.

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