Bob Baffert to start 90-day suspension after appeal for stay is denied
Trainer Bob Baffert, seemingly out of options, will begin serving a 90-day suspension Monday in connection with a medication positive with last year’s disqualified Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit.
Baffert learned Friday that his appeal for a stay of his suspension was denied by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. According to California Horse Racing Board rules, even though he is suspended by another state, he will be denied access to his barn at Santa Anita. He already has taken down all signage, per CHRB rules. It is expected that most of Baffert’s horses and employees will go to the barn of Tim Yakteen, Baffert’s former assistant.
The CHRB rule is in effect for any suspension of more than 60 days.
This the fourth attempt at a stay for the Hall of Fame trainer, something that is routinely granted in most cases. But not this time.
Baffert’s attorneys tried initially to get a stay while the case was under appeal from Marc Guilfoil, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, then with the full board of the KHRC and then with Thomas Wingate, a district court judge in Franklin County.
Bob Baffert wins a fourth Dubai World Cup as Country Grammer wins by 1 3/4 lengths. Horse is owned, in part, by Amr Zedan, who also had Medina Spirit.
There is one more option. Baffert can appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which is not required to hear the case and wouldn’t do so in a timely manner if it did.
“I’m extremely disappointed that the Kentucky courts have deemed it appropriate for Mr. Baffert to have to serve a 90-day suspension (a) based on a topical ointment that is not a rules violation and (b) before his case has even been heard,” said Craig Robertson, Baffert’s Kentucky-based attorney. “This is unprecedented in the history of Kentucky horse racing.”
The suspension came after Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory that is legal except on race day. Baffert’s attorneys contend the medication was not injected but applied as a topical, which they say is not a violation. The KHRC disagreed. It was Baffert’s fourth violation in about a year, although two of them, in Arkansas, were caused by contamination, which is mostly out of a trainer’s control. The horses’ victories were restored on appeal, and Baffert was fined but not suspended.
Baffert also was suspended for two years by Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. It also prohibited any Baffert horses from gaining Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Recently, Baffert moved four of his horses to other trainers so they could qualify in the last major prep race before the Derby.
According to Scott Chaney, executive director of the CHRB, Baffert is not contesting California’s enforcement of the reciprocity rule. He said the stewards are likely to rule on the suspension Saturday morning.
Chuck Winner, the former California Horse Racing Board chairman who oversaw reforms in the sport after dozens of racing deaths at Santa Anita, dies at 81.
The ruling from the Court of Appeals was written by Allison Jones, acting chief judge.
“The Court emphasizes that it makes no determination of the merit’s of Baffert’s contentions of error,” Jones said.
Clark Brewster, another Baffert attorney, issued this statement to the website Horse Racing Nation.
“We were disappointed by today’s decision, but it’s important to understand that the court made it clear that it denied the stay purely on procedural grounds and not on the merits, all of which point to Bob ultimately winning this case,” Brewster said. “We will continue to fight for Bob’s ability to race and win in Kentucky and against the injustice of KHRC against Bob.”
Baffert has only one horse running this weekend at Santa Anita — Shaaz in the sixth race Saturday. The way it stands, it likely will be his last start for three months.
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