Churchill Downs vs. Bob Baffert

College basketball had its storied vendetta — the one between Walter Byers and Jerry Tarkanian.

Now horse racing is having its storied vendetta — the one between Bill Carstanjen, the CEO of Churchill Downs, Incorporated (wonder if it's any relation to Murder, Incorporated?) and Bob Baffert.

After Baffert's Medina Spirit was disqualified from his victory in the 2021 Kentucky Derby because of a positive test for betamethasone, a corticosteroid (thus not an anabolic steroid. The level of betamethasone discovered was 21 picograms, giving Medina Spirit common ground with Jon Jones!), Baffert was banned from racing his horses at all of the tracks owned by Churchill Downs, Inc. — Colonial Downs, Ellis Park, the Fair Grounds, Presque Isle Downs, and Turfway Park, in addition to Churchill Downs — for two years, a ban that was supposed to expire on December 31, 2023, until CDI arbitrarily extended it "indefinitely" to prevent Arkansas Derby winner Muth (not only trained by Baffert, but also owned by the same ownership interest as Medina Spirit, headed by Amr Zedan) from running in this year's Derby.

(Undaunted, Medina Spirit went on to finish third and both the Preakness and the Belmont and second against older horses in the Breeders' Cup Classic — without betamethasone — but on December 6, 2021, he died of an apparent heart attack during a workout at Santa Anita. Shouldn't that have been more than enough schadenfreude for Carstanjen & Co.?).

What gives CDI the right to arbitrarily change their own rules as they go along — purely for childish, spiteful reasons?

After a Kentucky appeals court turned down Baffert's motion to have Muth admitted to the Derby field on Thursday, an unidentified CDI spokesperson had this to say:

"We are pleased with the Court's decision today and believe Mr. Zedan may suffer from a case of 'Derby Fever,' which is known to spread with exposure to horses and is contagious this time of year. Symptoms can contribute to questionable judgement and in extreme cases can result in litigious behavior. There is no known cure. Nevertheless, we have communicated clearly about the rules of entry, which are the same for everyone and are non-negotiable. Contenders cannot sue their way into the Kentucky Derby. We wish Mr. Zedan well in the future and appreciate both his passion for the sport and his desire to see his horses compete on the First Saturday in May."

Talk about being condescending and patronizing!

Carstanjen is, however, not a racist like Byers was: in 1970, Byers led the charge to have a two-year "death penalty" imposed on Yale players in all sports because Yale allowed its center, Jack Langer (who is Jewish) to play for Team USA at the 1969 Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv, Israel (guess there was no exemption on patriotic grounds if the athlete in question happened to be Jewish).

And during his feud with Tarkanian, Byers doubled down on his bigotry by characterizing UNLV's African-American players of playing "a fast city-lot basketball without much style. Grab the ball and run like hell, not lots of passing to set up the shots" — that is to say, "ghetto run-and-shoot basketball with little concern for defense."

After a dozen years of incessant harassment of Tarkanian by Byers, Tarkanian sued the NCAA. The case was settled out of court for $2.5 million in 1988.

But will the harassment of Bob Baffert by Churchill Downs, Inc. ever cease?

Since Baffert has done his time, CDI needs to tie a yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree — and allow Muth to run in the sesquicentennial Derby.

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