The horse coach Bob Baffert ought to be barred from New York State racetracks for two years for conduct detrimental to thoroughbred racing, in accordance with a suggestion issued Wednesday by a listening to officer.
Baffert is serving a 90-day suspension handed down by Kentucky regulators within the wake of a failed postrace drug take a look at by Medina Spirit, who crossed the end line first in final yr’s Kentucky Derby however was subsequently disqualified.
Baffert needed to flip his horses over to different trainers and won’t take part in any of the Triple Crown races. He will stay a presence, nonetheless, as two of his prime 3-year-olds are among the many favorites: Messier and Taiba will likely be saddled by Tim Yakteen, a former Baffert assistant who’s now on his personal.
The New York Racing Association had sought to bar Baffert after regulators in three states discovered that his horses violated drug laws over a span of 14 months and in seven totally different races.
In January, Judge O. Peter Sherwood, a retired New York State Supreme Court Justice, heard testimony from Baffert in addition to state racing authorities. His report decided that Baffert had “harmed the reputation and integrity of the sport, as well as 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 has reasonably determined that he should be excluded from the racetracks for a lengthy period.”
The suggestion now goes to a three-member panel, which might settle for, reject or modify the two-year ban. If it’s upheld as is, Baffert will likely be barred from competing at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course via July 2024.
“The recommendation from Peter Sherwood is nearly verbatim from the request of the NYRA lawyer,” mentioned Clark Brewster, a lawyer for Baffert. “It will be contested until we ultimately find a neutral detached decision maker that doesn’t rubber stamp the NYRA lawyer’s demands.”
The drug present in Medina Spirit’s system was betamethasone, a corticosteroid injected into joints to cut back ache and swelling. Baffert and his attorneys denied the colt was injected and mentioned the drug was utilized topically to deal with a pores and skin rash on Medina Spirit’s hind finish.
Medina Spirit is simply the third horse within the Derby’s 147-year historical past to be disqualified after ending first. The colt’s proprietor, Amr Zedan, forfeited the $1.8 million first-place verify, which went to the proprietor of the second-place finisher Mandaloun, Juddmonte, the racing and breeding enterprise based by Prince Khalid bin Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who died final yr.
The ruling additionally erased Baffert’s seventh Kentucky Derby victory, which had been a document. In addition, Churchill Downs, which hosts the Derby, has barred Baffert from competing within the race subsequent yr as properly.
The suggestion places a brand new stain on a sport that has been troubled by doping issues and locations Baffert’s popularity and future within the sport in jeopardy. Baffert, whose horses received the Triple Crown in 2015 and 2018, is thoroughbred horse racing’s most recognizable persona.
In his suggestion, Sherwood acknowledged the game’s unsteady footing with the general public and regulators’ efforts to treatment it.
(*2*) he wrote. “NYRA’s actions will also reassure fans and bettors that the industry can and will police itself, take stern action when doping is found and protect horses from mistreatment.”