Baffert Files Suit Against Churchill Downs, Carstanjen, Rankin In Attempt To Overturn Derby Ban - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Baffert Files Suit Against Churchill Downs, Carstanjen, Rankin In Attempt To Overturn Derby Ban

As expected, trainer Bob Baffert has filed a civil lawsuit against Churchill Downs, Inc., in an attempt to halt the company's ban on his trainees from stalls or entries, including its ban of his horses from the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks races.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for Kentucky's Western District on Feb. 28 and also names CDI's CEO, Bill Carstanjen and CDI board chairman R. Alex Rankin. The 56-page complaint requests a trial by jury.

Baffert is represented in the case by attorneys Clark Brewster and Michael Meuser. W. Craig Robertson, who has been part of Baffert's legal team in his fight against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, the New York Racing Association, and a class action suit from horseplayers, has a previous working relationship with CDI and could not represent him in this action.

In the complaint, Baffert claims his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process have been violated by the company, which suspended his right to race at CDI properties following Baffert's announcement Medina Spirit tested had positive for betamethasone after the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Last week, the horse was disqualified from his win in that race by Kentucky stewards.

The complaint reiterates Baffert's well-publicized argument that the drug positive should not count because the trainer says the betamethasone came from a topical and not an injectable form of the drug.

It also points out that Tyler Pickelsimer was one of the three stewards responsible for overseeing racing in Kentucky during the Kentucky Derby and that Pickelsimer is a CDI employee. The other two were employed by the commission.

(It is typical in many states for stewards' stands to contain a mix of officials hired by the state and by the racetracks to represent as many different interests as possible when enforcing regulation. The 2:1 ratio for commission/association-employed stewards is written into Kentucky regulations and has been in place for years.)

Baffert seeks a declaration that CDI would be prohibited from denying his horses entry or stall space at any of CDI's properties, from denying him access to the grounds, and from barring him from the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, and their prep races. He's also seeking preliminary and permanent injunction, meaning he hopes a judge will put a temporary halt to the track's ban on Baffert while the broader legal questions are worked out in court.

“CDI does not have the legal authority to place conditions upon a license held by Baffert or any trainer who is employed under Bob Baffert Racing Stable; that authority rests solely with the racing commission as the entity that issued his occupational license — a license that affords Baffert a constitutionally-protected property interest under state law,” the complaint read.

Baffert said he and his attorneys asked Carstanjen for an opportunity to dispute the track's allegations, but was denied. He also takes issue with what he says was a leak by CDI of a draft of the complaint in January, along with a statement by the track that it believed the impending legal fight from Baffert was without merit.

In addition to preliminary and permanent injunctions, Baffert seeks damages “exceeding $75,000” and attorneys' fees.

“This case and the events of the last eight months are about more than just me and my ability to do the work I love,” Baffert said in a statement distributed to media March 1. “If powerful forces can block me from competing, they can do this to anyone. This is a fight for the integrity of our great sport, and we have the facts, the law, and the truth on our side.”

“The lawsuit filed by Bob Baffert is disappointing but certainly not surprising,” read a statement from CDI, which was published by Sports Illustrated. “His claims are meritless and consistent with his pattern of failed drug tests, denials, excuses and attempts to blame others and identify loopholes in order to avoid taking responsibility for his actions. These actions have harmed the reputations of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs and the entire Thoroughbred racing industry. Churchill Downs will fight this baseless lawsuit and defend our company's rights.

“What's at stake here is the integrity of our races, the safety of horses and the trust of the millions of fans and bettors who join us every year on the first Saturday in May.”

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