Churchill Downs extension of the Bob Baffert ban, just or unjust, right or wrong

July 3, 2023

Via Press Release Churchill Downs announced today they were extending their imposed ban on Bob Baffert from entering horses at any CDI owned tracks through 2024.

Following is the language from the Press Release. To my knowledge there is no pending litigation between Bob Baffert and CDI.

“Mr. Baffert continues to peddle a false narrative concerning the failed drug test of Medina Spirit at the 147th Kentucky Derby from which his horse was disqualified by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in accordance with Kentucky law and regulations. Prior to that race, Mr. Baffert signed an agreement with Churchill Downs which stated that he was responsible for understanding the rules of racing in Kentucky and that he would abide by them. The results of the tests clearly show that he did not comply, and his ongoing conduct reveals his continued disregard for the rules and regulations that ensure horse and jockey safety, as well as the integrity and fairness of the races conducted at our facilities. 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. Mr. Baffert will remain suspended from entering horses at all racetracks owned by CDI through 2024. After such time, we will re-evaluate his status.”

Following is a “tweet” from the Bob Baffert twitter account:

Two obvious questions come to mind:

First, what exactly has Bob Baffert done since the ban was imposed to warrant extending it?

Second, what would Churchill Downs like him to do or have him do so that they don’t extend it?

We all know the private property issue and that just about any racetrack can ban just about anyone they want to if and when they chose to or it suits them. I always found it curious when racetrack executives would claim we can’t ban so and so because we need evidence. Sometimes I think they need entries and handle more than evidence but that is just my opinion.

If anyone knows the answer to either question please share it in the comments below. I’d love to know.

Bob Baffert’s positive in the Kentucky Derby was for betamethasone. It was not for some underground concoction like Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro pled guilty to using. It was not frog juice or cobra venom. It was not something that would be considered performance enhancing by most people knowledgeable on such things. Bob Baffert served his two-year-ban as it was imposed. When the ban was coming to an end he looked forward to again competing in a race he has dominated, The Kentucky Derby. As the ban came to an end or what was thought and believed to be an end, Bob Baffert kept doing what he does. Winning, He won a record 9th Hollywood Gold Cup with Defunded. He won the Preakness with National Treasure and Sir Barton on The Preakness undercard with Arabian Lion. He came right back on Belmont Stakes day and dominated The Woody Stephens again with Arabian Lion. Fort Bragg won The Dwyer at Belmont Park last week. His two-year-olds and even three-year olds continue to run off the screen with almost regularity under the tightest scrutiny and in the time during the ban he has had no violations.

The results of the tests clearly show that he did not comply, and his ongoing conduct reveals his continued disregard for the rules and regulations that ensure horse and jockey safety, as well as the integrity and fairness of the races conducted at our facilities.

Churchill Downs Press Release

The above language was known when the ban was imposed. Did banning Bob Baffert stop the rash of fatalities Churchill Downs suffered during Kentucky Derby week? No, it didn’t. What exactly is the continued disregard for the rules and regulations? Is there a Bob Baffert rule or regulatory violation we are not aware of? if that answer is no this statement is misleading at best or false at worst. What exactly is the “ongoing conduct’ besides running his barn and winning races?

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.

Churchill Downs Press Release

From where I sit Bob Baffert has accepted responsibility. He has publicly admitted as much. That aside momentarily, why are high profile races like The Kentucky Derby more important that say a lower level claiming race? Horses are horses, all deserve the same levels of care. Two years of scrutiny and a ban from the biggest race in the country with not a single violation and “cannot be trusted to avoid future misconduct.” That sounds personal to me.

Breeding and racing is big business in Kentucky. It is practically the lifeline of the state. It is a big money game with the highest of stakes and residuals. They took away his record of the most Kentucky Derby wins and left him tied with Ben Jones at six. They locked him out for two-years and there are arguably worse violations with lesser penalties. When big corporations start unilaterally throwing their weight around it never leads to fairness and does not fall under the heading of integrity. It also is a tell no less than the tell CDI flashed to even an amateur poker player when they announced they reserved the right to extend the ban. When I read that I would have given 100-1 they intended to extend the ban. The tell here is they can do it to anybody and at some point they will. Nobody should be OK with that.

Bottom line you have to be a man of your word. This is especially true if you are in a position of power or authority. Pay attention at minute 6:09 and the minute or two that follow it. Then you tell me if CDI was right or wrong in extending the ban. I believe he said let’s say there aren’t any further violations and he completes his two-year-suspension, and barring further facts he will have completed his suspension and:

He should be free to race here again if he so chooses

William “Bill” C. Carstanjen Churchill Downs President

If there are indeed further facts exactly what are they? If there aren’t this is a problem and not a good thing for anyone in the sport regardless of how you feel about Bob Baffert.

What a day for @jonathanstettin who had the Rainbow 6 twice! That’s why he’s the KING!

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