Churchill Downs CEO: Baffert lawsuit would be 'without merit'

Churchill Downs CEO: Baffert lawsuit would be 'without merit'
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen called trainer Bob Baffert’s possible case against the company “without merit” in a Wednesday internal email to employees. The email, obtained by Horse Racing Nation, was first reported by the Louisville Courier Journal.

Baffert and his legal team were reported to have threatened a lawsuit against CDI in an attempt to force the company to allow him to enter the 2022 Kentucky Derby. According to the email from Carstanjen, CDI will fight to keep that from happening.

“In the case of Medina Spirit, Mr. Baffert violated CDI’s terms and conditions for racing, of which he was well aware and to which he voluntarily agreed when he entered the horse in the Kentucky Derby,” Carstanjen said. “This follows a string of other drug failures over the last  few years that have directly impacted the reputation of our signature event.”

Baffert’s attorney in the CDI matter, Clark Brewster, did not deny that he could sue the company after a report from The New York Times cited a draft complaint. When reached Monday by HRN, Brewster said he had hoped to resolve the issue ahead of any legal action.

Related: Baffert might sue Churchill Downs over Kentucky Derby ban

“Obviously matters are discussed among lawyers, and proposed complaints may have been discussed and circulated,” Brewster said Monday. “But at this point in time I consider that to be something that lawyers do in a good-faith effort to cause resolution before filing the lawsuit.”

CDI banned Baffert from its tracks for two years following Medina Spirit testing positive for betamethasone after the 2021 Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s horses are also not allowed to accumulate Kentucky Derby points while in his care.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has still not made a ruling on whether the now-deceased horse will be disqualified from the Derby.

“We simply must do everything we can to protect the integrity of our sport,” Carstanjen said in the email. “For the horses, our fans, other participants, our partners, the betting public and for you, our team members.”

The email said CDI anticipates more news coming “in the coming days,” and expressed concern that details could be confusing as it played out in the public eye. Carstanjen also said he would like for the case to be settled without a lawsuit, but vowed to fight tooth and nail if it came to that.

“I continue to hold out hope that Mr. Baffert will finally take responsibility for his actions and we can move on from this and let our Churchill Downs Race Track team focus on what they love to do,” Carstandjen said. “...Until then, we will firmly stand behind the decisions we’ve made as a company to safeguard racing on our properties, uphold the integrity of our work and protect what we have all helped build together.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, there was no new lawsuit from Baffert to be seen on a public docket, either federally or in Kentucky.

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