Bob Baffert loses injunction, cannot run horses at Kentucky Derby
Trainer Bob Baffert’s attempt to lead horses at this year’s Kentucky Derby was denied again when a federal district court in Louisville, Kentucky, denied his request for an injunction. Baffert is serving a two-year ban from Churchill Downs Inc. after Medina Spirit tested positive for a legal drug after winning the 2021 Kentucky Derby but was not legal on race day.
Baffert and owner Amr Zedan may appeal Friday’s decision in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. However, it’s unclear if that court would issue an injunction while the case awaits hearing. Churchill Downs have set a February 28 deadline for when a horse can switch to another trainer if Baffert is not allowed to walk.
Clark Brewster, Baffert and Zedan’s lead counsel, issued this statement: “We will be evaluating our legal options. We are confident that once a neutral judge reviews the merits of this case, a decision in Bob’s favor is likely.”
He told website horseracingnation.com that he intends to appeal.
Baffert handed over two of his best horses, Taiba and Messier, to his former assistant Tim Yakteen at the end of March last year. Both ran in the derby but played no part in the race. This year, Baffert has about five horses that could be Kentucky Derby contenders, with two prep races remaining.
The case was tried by District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings in the Western District of Kentucky. In the ruling, Grady Jennings wrote, “Plaintiffs have failed to bear their burden of proving that the court should award an injunction against CDI’s suspension. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ renewed application for an injunction is denied.”
Grady Jennings was appointed by former President Trump and confirmed by the Senate in April 2018.
Baffert’s attorneys gave six reasons why the injunction should be granted. Grady Jennings fired five of them, but agreed that Baffert was not granted an immediate post-suspension hearing, which would be required because Churchill Downs is considered a “state actor”.
“Churchill Downs is pleased that the court denied Mr. Baffert’s motion for an injunction,” the company said in a statement, “and granted our motion to dismiss all but one of the claims, and in that claim the court decided that Mr. Baffert had no chance of success in the matter. [Friday’s] Opinion is a victory for the integrity of horse racing and we will continue to take action to protect the safety of our people and horse athletes.”
Baffert was suspended for 90 days by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission last year, barring him from racing in all jurisdictions, including California.
There is another, but separate, hearing with the commission on March 1 to address Medina Spirit’s eventual disqualification.
The relationship between Baffert’s attorneys and Grady Jennings has been controversial. The parties had agreed that each side would have two hours for an opening speech, testimonies and a closing speech. But on the first day of the hearing, on February 2, Brewster devoted all his time to the opening statement. This agreement was amended and the hearing lasted two days.
On February 6, Brewster accused the judge of holding an “ex parte” discussion with Churchill Downs without Brewster’s involvement. It was later agreed that no such discussion took place.
After the hearing, Brewster also accused the judge of having a conflict of interest as her husband received a consulting job at The Jockey Club after she was assigned the case. The Jockey Club is not involved in this lawsuit but has been critical of Baffert in the past. Brady Jennings did not recant and the matter was essentially dropped.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2023-02-17/bob-baffert-denied-attempt-to-run-horses-in-kentucky-derby Bob Baffert loses injunction, cannot run horses at Kentucky Derby