The horse trainer Bob Baffert should be barred from running a New York State racetracks for two years for thoroughbred racing, according to a recommendation issued Wednesday by a hearing officer.
Baffert is serving a 90-day suspension handed down by Kentucky regulators in wake of a failed postrace drug test by Medina Spirit, who crossed the finish line first last year’s Kentucky Derby but was subsequently disqualified.
Baffert had to turn his horses over to other trainers and would not make any of the Triple Crown races. He will remain a presence, however, as two of his top 3-year-olds are among favorites: Messier and Taiba will be saddled by Tim Yakteen, a former Baffert assistant who is now on his own.
The New York Racing Association has sought to bar Baffert after regulators found in three states that his horses violated drug regulations over a span of 14 months and seven different races.
In January, Judge O. Peter Sherwood, a retired New York State Supreme Court justice, heard testimony from Baffert as well as state racing authorities. His report determined that Baffert had “harmed the reputation and integrity of the sport, as well as the public’s perception of the sport’s legitimacy.”
Sherwood wrote: “NYRA has reasonably concluded that it will not condone Baffert’s reckless practices, outrageous behavior and substance violations, each of which compromises the integrity of the sport. I conclude that NYRA is reasonably determined that it should be excluded from the racetracks for a lengthy period. “
The recommendation now goes to a three-member panel, which can accept, reject or modify the two-year ban. If it is upheld as it is, Baffert will be barred from competing at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course through July 2024.
“The recommendation from Peter Sherwood is more verbatim than the request from the NYRA lawyer,” said Clark Brewster, a lawyer for Baffert. “It will be contested until we finally find a neutral detached decision maker that does not rubber stamp the NYRA lawyer’s demands.”
The drug found in Medina Spirit’s system was betamethasone, a corticosteroid injected into the joints to reduce pain and swelling. Baffert and his lawyers denied the colt was injected and said the drug was applied topically to treat a skin rash on Medina Spirit’s hind end.
Medina Spirit is only the third horse in the Derby’s 147-year history to be disqualified after finishing first. The colt’s owner, Amr Zedan, forfeited the $ 1.8 million first-place check, which went to the owner of the second-place finisher Mandaloun, Juddmonte, a racing and breeding enterprise founded by Prince Khalid bin Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who died last year. General Chat Chat Lounge
The ruling also erased Baffert’s seventh Kentucky Derby victory, which was a record. In addition, Churchill Downs, which hosts the Derby, has barred Baffert from competing in the race as well next year.
The recommendation puts on a new stain on a sport that has been troubled by doping problems and places that jeopardy Baffert’s reputation and future in the sport. Baffert, whose horses won the Triple Crown in 2015 and 2018, is thoroughbred horse racing’s most recognizable personality.
In his recommendation, Sherwood acknowledged the sport’s unsteady footing with the public and regulators’ efforts to remedy it.
“In response to NYRA’s decision, forceful action of imposition, these violations will serve to reassure racing fans of the integrity of the sport and NYRA’s commitment to protect horses, jockeys and the betting public,” he wrote. “NYRA’s actions will also reassure fans and bettors that the industry will and will take police action, taking stern action when doping is found and protect horses from mistreatment.”