What's next in the Bob Baffert Kentucky Derby drug saga?

What's next in the Bob Baffert Kentucky Derby drug saga?
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

The controversy surrounding trainer Bob Baffert has continued since Medina Spirit’s post-Kentucky Derby drug test turned up positive for betamethasone. In recent weeks, the case has been active in multiple jurisdictions, from federal court to the Kentucky stewards.

Here is a rundown of what will happen next in cases involving Baffert.

Federal court

Baffert sued Churchill Downs Inc., its CEO Bill Carstanjen and board chairman Alex Rankin. The lawsuit, filed in the Western District of Kentucky, sought to force CDI to remove Baffert’s two-year ban from its tracks.

The lawsuit also asked judge Rebecca Grady Jennings to make CDI honor Derby points already earned by Baffert horses, such as those Corniche would have won with his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November. If those points were honored, Corniche would be sixth and Newgrange eighth in the standings.

CDI, Carstanjen and Rankin must respond to the filing by March 21. A hearing and judgment likely will happen after the response.

In his lawsuit, Baffert requested the case be expedited. The request said that failure to speed the process along would have more negative effects on the trainer and that attorney Clark Brewster had sent a preliminary draft of a complaint to CDI in December.

The motion to expedite requested the defendants respond by Monday.

“As one of the largest and most recognizable firms in the country, Defense counsel has ample resources at its disposal to comply with this modestly accelerated timeframe,” the filing from Baffert said.

The motion to expedite was denied. In the order denying the motion, Jennings said Baffert's team failed to prove that expediting the case was necessary and CDI had been given enough time to respond.

“The Plaintiffs have requested giving the unnoticed party only seven calendar days, just five of which are business days, to complete the response briefing, yet request for themselves 14 days to file a reply brief, which is the full time permitted under the local rules,” the order said. “This is not only unfair but demonstrates that there is not a true need to expedite briefing.”

The March 21 response date falls before nominations close for several 100-50-20-10 Kentucky Derby points races. The Blue Grass at Keeneland closes on March 23, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct cuts off on March 26th, and the Santa Anita Derby at Baffert’s home base closes on March 31.

Kentucky court

At the state level, in Kentucky’s circuit court, Baffert is requesting a stay of the 90-day suspension issued to him by the state’s racing stewards. Baffert’s attorneys filed a complaint to seek the stay on Feb. 28.

The case was to be heard Wednesday, but judge Thomas Wingate requested the parties return to his courtroom after a Friday Kentucky Horse Racing Commission hearing on whether Baffert would receive a stay. The stay was denied by the KHRC, which will be back in court with Baffert on March 17, with a ruling coming by March 21.

Both parties agreed to delay the suspension until after Wingate rules. The judge said during Wednesday's proceedings that he never had heard of someone being denied a stay.

If Baffert has to serve the 90-day ban, he would be required under California rules to disperse his stable at Santa Anita and give up his stall space. The trainer’s lawyers have said such a suspension would put him out of business.

Still pending is Baffert's appeal of the suspension to the KHRC, along with Medina Spirit’s disqualification and a $7,500 fine. A hearing officer has been appointed in that case.

If the KHRC upholds the punishment, Baffert’s next move would be to appeal that ruling to Franklin Circuit Court.

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