Churchill Downs CEO says 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert’s ‘case is without merit’

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Less than four months from the 2022 Kentucky Derby, the fallout of last year’s race is still being sorted out.

Churchill Downs Inc. imposed a two-year ban on Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert last summer after his horse, Medina Spirit, won the 2021 Derby — and subsequently tested positive for betamethasone. This month, Baffert's attorneys drafted a complaint in pursuit of a settlement that would allow Baffert to compete in the upcoming Derby, its 148th running.

Bob Baffert is pictured in 2021 with Medina Spirit, before the horse tested positive for an anti-inflammatory drug.
Bob Baffert is pictured in 2021 with Medina Spirit, before the horse tested positive for an anti-inflammatory drug.

In an internal email obtained by the Courier Journal, Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said that Baffert’s “case is without merit.”

Background: Baffert threatens suit in effort to overturn Churchill Downs ban

“You should be assured that we are considering any and all legal options available to protect our rights, set the record straight and ensure (Baffert) is held accountable for the damage he has caused our company and brought to the sport at large,” Carstanjen wrote to the staff at Churchill Downs.

A request to interview Carstanjen Wednesday was declined, and Baffert's attorneys did not respond to a request to comment on the email.

The 2021 win by Medina Spirit, who died suddenly last month following a workout, gave Baffert a record seven Kentucky Derby victories. That victory, however, was quickly called into question when the horse tested positive for betamethasone.

The upcoming Derby is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 7.

In the email, Carstanjen said that CDI will “continue to push back against (Baffert’s) latest attempt to create delays and legal loopholes in order to intimidate his way back into the Kentucky Derby.”

More: In death as in life, Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit still matters

“Mr. Baffert violated CDI’s terms and conditions for racing, of which he was well aware and to which he voluntarily agreed when he entered the horse in the Kentucky Derby,” Carstanjen wrote. “This follows a string of other drug failures over the last few years that have directly impacted the reputation of our signature event.”

Tim Sullivan contributed to this article. Hayes Gardner can be reached at hgardner@gannett.com; Twitter: @HayesGardner.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Churchill Downs CEO says Bob Baffert’s ‘case is without merit’

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