Baffert, Medina Spirit owners sue Kentucky racing officials

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Trainer Bob Baffert and the owners of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit have filed a lawsuit against Kentucky racing officials.

They are seeking a temporary injunction they say is to prevent violation of due process rights and for custody of “remnant” samples of the colt’s urine to prove that traces of the steroid betamethasone found in his system during a positive drug test did not come from an injection.

Medina Spirit’s Derby victory on May 1 is in jeopardy after a failed postrace drug test revealed 21 picograms of betamethasone in the horse. The Hall of Fame trainer and Medina Spirit owner Amr Zedan confirmed last week that a second test – or split-sample – was also positive for betamethasone.

Baffert and Zedan Racing Stables filed the lawsuit against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Monday in Franklin County Circuit Court. The suit states that the KHRC told the trainer and owners around June 1 that remnant samples of the samples had been “damaged/contaminated” during transport to the testing lab. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction to prevent the KHRC from violating “substantive and procedural due process rights” regarding analysis of the split sample.

“The testing the plaintiff seek would provide empirical and scientific reasonable certainty that the miniscule (sic) and materially irrelevant reported positive in Medina Spirit’s post race sample was innocuously sourced from the topical Otomax,” the suit said.

KHRC spokesperson Sherelle Roberts said via email that the commission does not comment on pending litigation. A hearing is scheduled for Friday morning in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Baffert, suspended by Churchill Downs last week for two years from the track for his recent record of failed tests, initially denied wrongdoing before later acknowledging that the horse had been treated with an ointment containing the corticosteroid for a skin inflammation. Kentucky prohibits even trace amounts of betamethasone in horses on race day.

Citing an “absolute firestorm” of public and media criticism against Baffert, the lawsuit added that further testing will determine if betamethasone was applied to Medina Spirit’s skin or injected into a joint.

The suit mentioned several requests to the KHRC for additional testing and observation, which were denied.

With the remnant samples damaged or contaminated, the suit added that there’s doubt about whether they will be sufficient to test for compounds in Otomax. It stated that the KHRC freezer has an “unopened, untested and hopefully pristine” split sample of urine that should be shipped to an agreed-upon lab for testing.

Taiba wins $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert

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BENSALEM, Pa. – Taiba won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by three lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Taiba ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.67 and paid $4.80, $3 and $2.60.

It was Baffert’s fourth win in the Grade 1 event at Parx Racing. He also won in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Smith won the race for the third time, all aboard Baffert horses.

Zandon returned $3.80 and $2.60. Cyberknife was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $3 to show.

Taiba was coming off a second-place finish in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in July. The colt was 12th in the Kentucky Derby under Tim Yakteen, who took over training him while Baffert was serving a 90-day suspension.

“He had a little bit of a rough trip in the Haskell, but we had some time to get him ready for this one,” Baffert said from his base in California. “He proved today he is a good horse. He is getting better and better.”

Baffert Taiba will be pointed toward the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. The colt has three wins in five starts this year.

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.