Bobby Zen

Amr Zedan’s incorporated racing stable advanced its lawsuit to get Bob Baffert-trained horses un-banned from the GI Kentucky Derby by telling a Kentucky judge Thursday that the motion to dismiss filed by defendant Churchill Downs, Inc. (CDI) “confirms that the extension of its ban is based on pretext rather than genuine, fact-based concerns about health and safety.”

Zedan’s Apr. 11 legal response in Jefferson Circuit Court underscored the time-pressing need for a swift judicial response to Zedan’s request for an injunction before the Apr. 27 deadline for all entered Derby horses to be on the grounds prior to the May 4 race. The next hearing in the case is Apr. 15.

Zedan articulated concerns that CDI’s legal invocation of an Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statute was “not only meritless, but perverse.”

An Anti-SLAPP claims process might take months to legally unfold, and while it played out there would be a mandatory halting of all other legal proceedings, including Zedan’s pending motion for the temporary injunction.

After Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone in the 2021 Derby, Baffert was banned from CDI’s properties for two years. A federal judge in February 2023 denied Baffert a preliminary injunction that the Hall-of-Fame trainer had sought to be eligible to race in the Derby. Last July CDI extended the ban at least through 2024.

Zedan owns the GI Arkansas Derby winner Muth (Good Magic), who would be among the Derby favorites if allowed to race.

It is unclear if a ruling in favor of Zedan would allow other Baffert trainees owned by different entities to also participate in the Derby, or if any lifting of the ban would also permit Baffert’s trainees to enter the GI Kentucky Oaks.

CDI’s Apr. 8 motion to dismiss stated that “The demand for a last-minute judicial takeover of the world’s most storied horse race…is baseless, outrageous and should be immediately rejected.”
Zedan’s responded in the Apr. 11 filing: “CDI has given away the game at the outset. In purporting to uphold the right ‘to petition and speak freely on issues of public interest,’ CDI has discredited its sole gripe against Baffert: far from acting on any substantive concerns about the health or safety of horses, CDI admits its extended ban is based only on its dissatisfaction with Baffert supposedly ‘pedd[ling] a false narrative,’ i.e., uttering words, in public interviews, that displease CDI.”

In a different section of the filing, Zedan stated, “Observers to this point might have thought that CDI stands behind its ban-and CDI’s professed concerns about an actual threat to ‘integrity’ and ‘safety’-as reflecting hard, objective facts that CDI has diligently verified. But observers now know better. CDI has admitted to this Court that its banning of an all-time-great horse trainer was and is just a matter of CDI’s casual, subjective opinion!”

Zedan’s filing later continued: “CDI argues that Zedan suffers no serious detriment and that CDI gains no unfair advantage from any inconsistency, but the facts amply refute that. CDI’s bait-and-switch tactics have cost Zedan millions of dollars in sunk costs while enabling CDI successfully to defend a two-year ban against legal challenge, only thereafter to extend the ban indefinitely.”

Baffert is not a party to the lawsuit filed by Zedan.

The post Zedan: Derby Ban Based on `Pretext,’ Not `Health and Safety’ appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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