All horse racing fans remember the 2021 Kentucky Derby cheating debacle, but in case you don’t, let me refresh your memory.
Medina Spirit, trained by horse training legend Bob Baffert, originally won the 2021 Derby. The victory would have been Baffert’s seventh Kentucky Derby win and jockey John Velasquez’s fourth.
However, upon further investigation, Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, a banned performance-enhancing substance in horse racing.
While the race took place on May 1, 2021, Spirit and Baffert’s position as the “winner” was up in the air for nearly a year. On February 21, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stripped them of their win. The commission gave the first-place prize to the second-place winner, a horse named Mandaloun.
With the disqualification came a $7,500 fine for Baffert and a forced return of all the purse money, which was $1.86 million.
A lawsuit seeks damages and racing reforms
Although disqualification of Medina Spirit seems like the right thing to do, it raises some very interesting questions for which a few people want answers.
Consequently, a lawsuit filed in the Jefferson Circuit Court on behalf of 19 bettors seeks money damages from both Churchill Downs and Baffert.
“This should have never happened and was completely preventable,” said lead counsel Will Nefzger. “At a minimum, Bob Baffert’s betamethasone use with Medina Spirit amounts to extreme carelessness. And his prior, multiple medication transgressions resulting in disqualifications gave Churchill Downs ample reason to refuse any further entries of horses he trains.”
One of the litigating bettors is seeking $1,000,000 in reparations for a $1,000 bet he placed on Mandaloun to win. That bet was obviously considered a loss at race time. But now that Mandaloun is the winner, the bettor is reaching out for payment.
In addition, the lawsuit is calling for some substantial race reforms. The measures include:
- Pre-race testing to determine that no horse should be disqualified
- Public disclosure of veterinarian records of entrants in races within 48 hours of the scheduled post time
- Public disclosure of medical violations of trainers with entrants in races within 48 hours of the scheduled post time
- A fund to pay wagers that become correct following a disqualification
The suit also seeks the removal of forced arbitration provisions as it relates to wagering customers.
Whose money is affected by the lawsuit?
In their announcement, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said that the disqualification does not affect pari-mutuel racing. This statement clarifies that bets on Derby Day stand. The decision only affects the purse, which goes to the owners, the trainers, etc.
“It’s important to note that this lawsuit does not seek to have those who were paid for their Kentucky Derby bets–based on the order of finish that day–return any money or have those payouts reversed,” Nefzger said. “Instead, the plaintiffs seek money damages from Naffery and Churchill Downs with a calculation of what their now correct wagers would have paid.”
It’s hard to tell how this will play out because there is no precedence. While the litigants have a valid point, statistical changes rarely change betting payouts in other sports. So it’s unsure how the law will tackle this one.
Personally, I think they deserve at least a fraction of the payout. Why should the cheating only affect those in the event and not the fans who bet their money?
Regardless, it’s an interesting scenario nonetheless — so you can be sure to find your updates here.