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Zedan Legal Filing: CDI Defense to His Suit 'Perverse'

Calls invocation of anti-SLAPP statute meritless.

(L-R): Bob Baffert and Amr Zedan

(L-R): Bob Baffert and Amr Zedan

Chad B. Harmon

Attorneys for Amr Zedan's racing stable filed a scathing response to a request made by Churchill Downs Inc. for expedited relief from Zedan's suit seeking to overturn a ban of Bob Baffert racing at its tracks.

Zedan's filing was made April 11 in response to CDI's motion three days earlier accusing Zedan of violating Kentucky's anti-SLAPP statute.

"CDI’s invocation of (the statute) is not only meritless, but perverse," the response says. "The statutory purpose (of the statute) is two-fold: protecting individuals’ rights to petition and speak freely on issues of public interest while, at the same time, protecting the rights of people and entities to file meritorious lawsuits for real injuries. Yet CDI’s motion is antithetical to both purposes. ... Zedan has filed this lawsuit not to challenge speech but simply to challenge CDI’s conduct in banning Baffert-trained horses from its races and tracks."

Zedan claims CDI’s motion is defective "in every respect" and that his suit not only does not trigger the anti-SLAPP statute but also falls within an express, categorical statutory exception.

Zedan's response filed today is an attempt to ward off an automatic stay of all other proceedings in his case while Churchill's anti-SLAPP claim winds its way through the courts. A stay, or stoppage, of other claims is provided by the statute in certain circumstances and could prevent a hearing on Zedan's motion for a temporary injunction to allow Baffert to run Zedan's Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Muth in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Under current CDI rules, Muth is not eligible to run for Baffert or any other trainer in the Derby because he remained in Baffert's care beyond a deadline set by CDI in its race conditions.

Muth wins the 2024 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park
Photo: Coady Photo/Andrew Stauffacher
Muth wins the 2024 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park

CDI clearly stated in a notice of automatic stay it recently filed that because CDI filed an anti-SLAPP motion, all other proceedings between the parties "have been automatically stayed. ... This mandatory stay 'shall remain in effect' until a ruling on this motion and the conclusion of any appeal from that ruling...and prevents this Court from hearing or ruling on Plaintiff’s pending motion for a temporary injunction until that time."

The response filed by Zedan says CDI’s reading of the statute, whereby mere invocation of it effectively forecloses temporary relief, would be patently unconstitutional. Zedan also lays out several substantive grounds for its position: it says Zedan’s claims are outside the scope of the anti-SLAPP statute, that a statutory exception for commercial activity applies to Churchill Downs, and that CDI has not shown that any of Zedan's claims fail on merit.

CDI's motion is scheduled for hearing April 15 in the Business Court of Jefferson Circuit Court in Louisville, Ky. Regardless of the outcome, an appeal to the Kentucky Court of Appeals is virtually guaranteed.