Churchill Downs suspended trainer Bob Baffert on Wednesday after the organization says it was confirmed that his horse, Medina Spirit, had a prohibited substance in its bloodstream when it won the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 1.
Churchill Downs, which hosts the annual horse race in Louisville, said in a press release that Baffert’s suspension will take effect immediately and last through its 2023 spring meet.
The suspension prohibits Baffert, or any trainer directly or indirectly employed by his racing stables, from entering horses in races or applying for stall occupancy at all Churchill Downs racetracks.
In its statement, Churchill Downs said attorneys representing Baffert confirmed the presence of betamethasone in the winning horse’s bloodstream on the day of the derby, which violates Kentucky’s equine medication protocols and the organization’s terms and conditions for racing.
Churchill Downs also said it reserves the right to extend Baffert’s suspension if there are additional violations in any racing jurisdiction.
As for Medina Spirit’s status as the winner of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs said the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) has the sole authority to disqualify the horse as the winner of the race. The organization said it believes the KHRC is pursuing the completion of its investigation regarding the matter.
“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,” wrote Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs in a statement. “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.”