Hall of Fame horse trainer Bob Baffert launched a federal lawsuit Monday night against Churchill Downs, claiming his two-year suspension by the track is a "malicious" effort aimed at "destroying" his career.
Medina Spirit was found to have traces of a legal steroid, known as Betamethasone or Otomax, in his system after the race.
The medication can help a horse manage pain and inflammation and many venues require it be out of the animal's system by race day. Overuse of the drug could dangerously mask more serious bone and joint issues, veterinarians have said.
"Churchill Downs knows the post-race test report occurred as a result of the use of a harmless ointment known as Otomax," Baffert's attorney Clark Brewster said in a statement.
"They know it was prescribed by Medina Spirit’s treating veterinarian and properly and timely reported to the data bank the day it was dispensed. They know no rule was violated, and the ointment could never have enhanced Medina Spirit’s performance. To maintain otherwise is absurd."
In the federal complaint, Baffert's lawyers said Churchill Downs Inc., parent company of the famed track in Louisville, "has, with malicious intent, caused significant damage to Baffert's ability to conduct his customary business on a national scale."
The lawsuit says "it is apparent that CDI's targeted sanctions have the singular aim of destroying Baffert's career."
Churchill Downs Inc. blasted Baffert on Tuesday, saying his lawsuit was "disappointing but certainly not surprising."
"His claims are meritless and consistent with his pattern of failed drug tests, denials, excuses and attempts to blame others and identify loopholes in order to avoid taking responsibility for his actions," according to the company statement.
"These actions have harmed the reputations of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs and the entire Thoroughbred racing industry. Churchill Downs will fight this baseless lawsuit and defend our company’s rights. What’s at stake here is the integrity of our races, the safety of horses and the trust of the millions of fans and bettors who join us every year on the first Saturday in May.”
Medina Spirit died during a workout on Dec. 6 at Santa Anita of an an apparent heart attack.