Judge Grants Baffert a Stay

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Judge David Yaffe granted trainer Bob Baffert a stay of his 60-day suspension for a positive drug test on one of his horses Friday morning in Los Angeles Superior Court.

After hearing arguments from Judith Seligman, the deputy attorney general representing the California Horse Racing Board, and Neil Papiano, Baffert's attorney, Yaffe granted the stay, pending appeal.

The suspension, which was handed down because Nautical Look, a filly trained by Baffert, tested positive for morphine after winning a race at Hollywood Park in May 2000, was to begin Monday and continue through Aug. 23.

The matter is now back in the hands of the CHRB, and given recent history, the board is likely to refer it to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

Then, probably several months from now, another hearing will be held in front of an administrative law judge assigned by the OAH. After the hearing is concluded, the CHRB can either accept, reject or modify the administrative law judge's decision.

"Having the case heard again before an administrative law judge is what they normally do, but the board hasn't done anything normal in this case yet," Papiano said. "We're going to begin taking a ton of depositions and find out what really happened."

Mike Marten, spokesman for the CHRB, said the board would have no comment on Yaffe's decision to grant Baffert a stay.

Hollywood Park will begin a capital improvements project after the conclusion of the spring-summer meet July 16 and complete it before the autumn season begins Nov. 7.

Rubber horse paths will be installed, running from the main stable gate along the primary road of the stable area. The paths will also be laid on the two roads running from the main road to the east side of the stable area where the training track is located.

The stable area will also be wired for cable TV, allowing horsemen to watch races and bringing Spanish-language programming to backstretch workers.

Other parts of the project, in addition to completion of the irrigation work begun last year, are the construction of a retaining wall to ease congestion at the busiest corner of the stable area, a new straw management system to keep waste off roads and horse paths, more trees and shrubs and the painting of the barn ceilings.

If Captain Steve runs in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 1, the 4-year-old son of Fly So Free will have a new rider.

Gary Stevens has the call on owner Mike Pegram's colt, who earned his biggest victory in March when winning the $6-million Dubai World Cup.

Captain Steve, the beaten favorite in the Stephen Foster Handicap last Saturday at Churchill Downs, bounced back quickly from the race and Baffert has said a workout scheduled for Tuesday morning will determine whether the horse starts in the Gold Cup.

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