Bettors Sue Medina Spirit Trainer Over Kentucky Derby Win Fouled by Doping Scandal

Horse race bettors claim they lost thousands of dollars when a colt who later tested positive for a steroid was crowned winner of the Kentucky Derby.

In this May 5, 2018, file photo, Mike Smith rides Justify to victory during the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A group of bettors say in a federal lawsuit their horses lost the Kentucky Derby on May 1 thanks to Medina Spirit, a colt they argue was “doped” with performance enhancing drugs and now they are the suing the horse’s trainer Bob Baffert for fraud and racketeering.

Eight days after crossing the finish line at the 147th Kentucky Derby and winning the first race in the Triple Crown, Baffert revealed that Medina Spirit, a 3-year-old Protonico colt, tested positive for a steroid. Baffert said the positive test result might have been due to an ointment used to treat a skin rash.

On Friday, the colt passed the latest battery of drug tests, according to the Maryland Jockey Club. This clears the way for a run in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown. On the same day, four horse bettors filed a class action lawsuit in the Central District of California against Baffert, his racing stables and Zedan Racing Stables, Inc.

Baffert’s attorney W. Craig Robertson III from Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs called the lawsuit “completely frivolous and without legal merit.  We will be promptly moving to have it dismissed.”

The complaint argues that Baffert repeatedly enters race horses who test positive for medication, drugs or other substances.  Michael Beychok of Louisiana; Justin Wunderler of New Jersey; Michael Meegan of New York; and Keith Mauer of California claim they lost between $100 to $100,000 in bets because Medina Spirit won the race. They claim a class action lawsuit is necessary.

“Medina Spirit won the race, contrary to what plaintiffs’ analysis and observations of the horse’s previous racing form and analysis of the race suggested would be the result,” says the complaint. “Consequently, the other horses on which Plaintiffs placed their bets finished second, third, fourth, and fifth, instead of first, second, third, and fourth.”

Baffert won $1.8 million thanks to his colt finishing in first. If race organizers disqualify Medina Spirit’s win, the winnings would go to the other winners.

“However, the bettors of the race, including Plaintiffs, will not receive the payoffs they would have been entitled to, but for the illegal participation of Medina Spirit,” says the complaint.

They claim Baffert is part of an “scheme” where he trains horses for other people to claim a profit. Baffert travels across the world to train horses and that includes entering horses in the famed Churchill Downs where the Kentucky Derby takes place. They claim a pattern where horses test positive for banned substances.

“For example, in January 2021, the California Horse Racing Board voted to let eventual 2018 Triple Crown winner and Baffert-trained horse, Justify, keep his Santa Anita Derby victory, despite the detection of scopolamine in postrace samples Justify,” says the complaint.

They list several other instances where racing boards fined Baffert when his horses tested positive for other substances.

“These and many other confirmed acts of horse doping by the Baffert defendants in recent years and throughout his career were attempts to further their goal of collecting the winning purse from the events in which their trained horses compete,” says the complaint. “Although continually fined by stewards for medication violations, the violations have continued, finally leading to a violation in the most important horse race in America, the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby.”

Baffert’s pattern extends as far back as 1993, according to the plaintiffs. The men are seeking a nationwide class action lawsuit. They allege violations of the federal RICO Act, racketeering, fraud and equitable fraud. They are represented by Robert Green from Green & Noblin. They attached rulings from multiple racing bodies against Baffert and his horses who tested positive for substances.

Another class action complaint on Friday filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Louisville, Kentucky makes similar claims against Baffert. That complaint names Baffert, his racing group and Churchill Downs.

The famed race track organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment via email.

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