Churchill Downs-Bob Baffert Feud Continues Ahead of Kentucky Derby

Last week, a lower court rejected an emergency injunction to allow the horse Muth to run in the Kentucky Derby, in spite of being trained by the suspended Bob Baffert. On Monday, two sides – Zedan Racing Stables and Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) – presented arguments to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Amr Zedan is the owner of Muth, the winner of the Arkansas Derby, which would normally qualify him for the Kentucky Derby, held on the first Saturday in May. At the heart of Zedan’s complaint is that he bought the expensive Muth with the expectation that Baffert would be eligible for the Derby this year. Instead, a year ago, Churchill Downs extended Baffert’s suspension through all of 2024, and according to Zedan, that is overly punitive to him.

Attorneys for Churchill Down wrote to the Court, “There is no basis for the Court to upend the status quo to address a manufactured emergency of Zedan’s own making. A court order compelling CDI to house Muth on its property for a week with a suspended trainer in tow would create a media circus and would be an enormous distraction for Churchill Downs, its personnel, and other owners and trainers that have fairly earned a berth to the Derby, in addition to overtly infringing CDI’s property rights. That is hardly a fair result, and it is one that jeopardizes the well-being of horses being housed at the track who have earned the right to be there under the rules.”

All Derby contenders must be on track property by 11 a.m. this Saturday, eight and a half hours before the post position draw. If the horse isn’t there by the deadline, they cannot race the following weekend.

“The circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Zedan’s last-minute bid to litigate its way into the Derby and displace up to three horses that earned their berths under the rules in place for many months. This Court should affirm the circuit court’s proper exercise of discretion and deny Zedan’s motion.”

Even though Baffert’s suspension stemming from Medina Spirit’s positive drug test in 2021 is at the heart of the legal back-and-forth, Baffert is not a plaintiff in this case.

Zedan’s attorneys have requested oral arguments in front of the three-judge panel, which, so far, hasn’t been granted.

Kentucky Derby Favorites

As the winner of the Arkansas Derby, and as a horse trained by Baffert, Muth would be among the favorites for the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. Instead, the pre-post favorite is Fierceness at 3-1, followed by Sierra Leone at 7-2, and Catching Freedom at 8-1.

Fierceness won the Florida Derby by the largest margin in the 73-year history of the race, and is trained by two-time Kentucky Derby winner Todd Pletcher. Sierra Leone won the Bluegrass Stakes and is trained by Chad C. Brown, a two-time winner at the Preakness. Catching Freedom won the Louisiana Derby last month and is trained by Brad H. Cox, who trained Mandaloun, the horse that became the Kentucky Derby winner in 2021 after Medina Spirit was disqualified.

Robert Cooper,’s Racebook Director, said, “We’d price [Muth] at 7/2 or 4/1 if he somehow ended up in one of those gates come May 4th.”

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