Hearings begin for Bob Baffert’s case against Churchill Downs ban
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Testimonies have begun in the case of horse trainer Bob Baffert against Churchill Downs.
The hearing for a preliminary injunction began in federal court on Thursday afternoon, continuing a nearly two-year-long legal battle between Baffert and the racetrack following his suspension back in 2021.
If a judge rules for Baffert, it could potentially allow horses trained by him to enter the 2023 Kentucky Derby.
Baffert’s suspension came down days after his horse Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned race-day substance, betamethasone, following the 147th run of the Kentucky Derby.
The trainer filed a lawsuit in 2022 to overturn a two-year suspension from Churchill-owned racetracks, a suspension that was upheld by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
According to Baffert’s attorneys, KHRC only prohibits betamethasone if it is injected. His team has stated the betamethasone sample comes from a topical ointment used for treating a skin condition.
Outside the courtroom, Baffert was asked if he had lost his desire to run in the Kentucky Derby due to the ongoing litigation.
“I haven’t lost the desire,” Baffert said. “You know I’m horse crazy and I love Kentucky. You know, Kentucky means a lot to me and I have great memories here, Churchill and Louisville. So that has not affected me at all.”
Baffert spent nearly two hours Friday on the stand responding to questions from attorneys on both sides.
He talked about the damage done to his reputation by Churchill Down’s decision to suspend him for two years.
“I think today was great because I finally got to tell my story in a non-biased atmosphere,” Baffert said.
Churchill Downs Racetrack President Mike Anderson also testified, describing the decision to suspend Baffert.
Anderson said Baffert’s previous offenses, and his denials of responsibility in the media in 2021, threatened Churchill Down’s reputation and integrity.
He said the suspension was also a message to other trainers. Attorneys for Churchill Downs declined to comment after the hearing.
“If they just had the decency to talk to me about it afterward,” Baffert said. “We could have sat down, and explained what happened. We knew what happened within 48 hours. Maybe we wouldn’t be standing here.”
Attorneys on both sides speculated that a judge’s decision could be weeks away.
If the ruling goes against him, Baffert will have until the end of February to turn his Derby-hopeful horses over to other trainers.
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