Bob Baffert loses appeal on his 90-day horse racing suspension
Trainer Bob Baffert continued his legal losing streak in Kentucky on Monday when a circuit court judge denied his wish for a stay on his 90-day suspension while the case moves through the regulatory process. He has one more appeal he can file, this one with the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
The suspension stems from a positive test for an legal anti-inflammatory, but not legal on race day, after Medina Spirit won last year’s Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission suspended Baffert for 90 days not just for Medina Spirit but also because he had four medication violations in about a year. However, two of those violations in Louisiana were deemed the result of contamination, which is generally out of a trainer’s control, and the winning placings were restored.
Stays in most cases are routinely granted while a case is under appeal. But Thomas Wingate, a judge in the Franklin Circuit Court who hears a lot of horse racing cases, addressed that in his ruling.
Former Harvard-Westlake head, Thomas Hudnut, joins the sometimes divided California Horse Racing Board with the possibility being the swing vote.
“The court finds that requests for stays must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” Wingate wrote. “Accordingly, the court cannot adopt a blanket rule that all requests for stays must be granted.”
The hearing was held Thursday and the 20-page ruling was issued Monday. Baffert previously had lost an appeal before the KHRC after the stewards initially ruled the trainer was to be suspended.
“We’re disappointed with the decision of the Franklin County Circuit Court denying a stay of the Stewards rulings,” said Clark Brewster, Baffert’s attorney. “Given the importance of the matter, we intend to immediately appeal to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.”
Because of the appeal process, it is unclear when Baffert would have to serve his suspension, should he be required.
Even though the ruling was in Kentucky, it would be honored in California and every other state. California regulations say that with any suspension more than 60 days, the trainer must disperse his barn and take down signage. In theory that would disrupt the routine of every horse and employee. But, if all the horses were transferred to the same trainer, it’s likely it could be done without much day-to-day effect on the barn and the horses.
Medina Spirit has been stripped of his Kentucky Derby win and trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended after the horse tested positive for a banned drug.
Baffert has been banned by Churchill Downs for two years after the Medina Spirit medication positive, although that too is subject to litigation. The two cases are separate legal actions.
Churchill’s ban also includes an inability of any of Baffert’s horses from winning qualifying points to be eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby. Owners of some of Baffert’s best 3-year-olds will have to decide in the very near future whether they should remain loyal to a trainer with whom they have had great success, or switch to another trainer to try to qualify their expensive horse purchases.
The next few weeks will be the last qualifying races for the Kentucky Derby.
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