Hall of Fame Horse racing trainer Bob Baffert has had a difficult week, as his Kentucky Derby title and his own honor alike have both come under fire following a failed drug test for his horse Medina Spirit. And to make matters worse, a group of bettors who lost money gambling on the Kentucky Derby have placed litigation to Baffert's ever-expanding palette of grievances.
According to a report by Tim Sullivan of the Louisville Courier Journal, a group of bettors have filed separate class-action lawsuits in California and Kentucky courts against Bob Baffert, accusing him of a variety of offenses ranging from fraud & racketeering to negligence. The bettors are seeking compensation for money lost on the Kentucky Derby following Medina Spirit's victory, and also seek that Baffert and horse owner Amr Zedan divest themselves "of any interest (direct or indirect) in any enterprise," and that "reasonable restrictions" be imposed on their future activities in horse racing.
The plaintiffs in the California suit claim that they were deprived of payoffs worth a minimum of $54,000 by Medina Spirit's victory, while the Jefferson County, Kentucky plaintiffs claim that they were in line to collect $1 million in winnings before Medina Spirit's win was declared official. Medina Spirit's Kentucky Derby victory was jeopardized after it was revealed that the horse failed a post-race drug test due to an excessive amount of the steroid betamethasone.
While Baffert's attorney Craig Robertson called the California lawsuit "completely frivolous with zero legal merit", the plaintiff in the Jefferson County case also alleges negligence on the part of Churchill Downs, claiming that the racetrack is culpable for failing to detect and and scratch ineligible horses prior to competition. Among other things, the plaintiff seeks to create a fund to settle wagers involving horses that end up being disqualified from races.
"At the very minimum, Bob Baffert was extremely careless with administering betamethasone to Medina Spirit, and Churchill Downs has absolutely no system in place to prevent ineligible horses from competing in its races," said Will Nefzger, the attorney for plaintiff Anthony Mattera. "They have it completely backwards and allowed this to happen. This lawsuit strikes at the heart of a couple huge problem in horse racing - continued and repeated medication violations by trainers and continually forcing horseplayers to bear the brunt of careless and reckless behavior."
After initially going on the defensive following Medina Spirit's failed drug test, claiming that his suspension from Churchill Downs was the result of "cancel culture" during an appearance on Fox News, Baffert released a Tuesday statement explaining that he believed Medina Spirit's failed drug test stemmed from the use of the anti-fungal ointment Otomax in order to treat dermatitis.
"Yesterday, I was informed that one of the substances in Otomax is betamethasone," read Baffert's statement. "While we do not know definitively that this was the source of the alleged 21 picograms found in Medina Spirit's post-race blood sample, and our investigation is continuing, I have been told by equine pharmacology experts that this could explain the test results. As such, I wanted to be forthright about this fact as soon as I learned of this information."
Both Medina Spirit and another horse trained by Baffert, Concert Tour, are set to compete this weekend at the Preakness Stakes. Baffert stated that he would not travel to the race in order to keep from being a distraction.