By Stephen Wino, sports writer for the Associated Press
The New York Racing Association suspended coach Bob Baffert for a year Thursday for repeated drug violations,
The committee credited Baffert for the time served from the initial suspension making the two-time Triple Crown winner eligible for the New York saddlebag again on January 26. The final decision marks a drawn-out back-and-forth over Baffert’s placement that began in May 2021.
“This was a fair and deliberative process that led to the lengthy suspension of the sport’s most prominent coach,” Dave O’Rourke, NIRA President and CEO, said in a statement. “However, it is not just about Bob Baffert or any individual, but about protecting the integrity of the sport here in New York. Today’s decision furthers that goal.”
The ban is shorter than two years, and Churchill Downs removed Baffert after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a disallowed substance on race day. Retired New York State Supreme Court Justice O.
Baffert’s camp demanded that the NYRA suspension be halted, which was immediately rejected. A message seeking comment from Baffert or his attorney did not immediately return.
The commission’s decision cannot be appealed through the NYRA process, which was developed last year after Baffert successfully sued in federal court to lift his initial suspension in New York state. Baffert is also fighting in federal court against Churchill Downs’ ban that made him ineligible to run horses in the derby in 2022 and 23.
Under the terms of the suspension approved by the panel consisting of Saratoga attorney John J. Caruson, New York Thoroughbred Association executive director Will Almpejvich and New York leader Rice Track Chaplinci Reverend Humberto Chavez, Baffert will be able to. Be a part of Belmont Stakes next year.
In its 14-page ruling, the committee disagreed with Sherwood on the issue of Baffert’s “abuse” of his horses, saying: “The drugs cited in three jurisdictions are permitted and commonly used but nonetheless enhance performance in the sense that they may prevent injuries and may allow the horse to perform at standard normal despite the injury if it is found to be at a level above the permissible limit.”
Medina Spirit tested positive for the corticosteroid betamethasone, which is not allowed in Kentucky on race day, and was subsequently disqualified. The colt finished third in the Preakness two weeks after the derby.
Spirit city collapsed and died in December in California. Testing found no definitive cause of death.
Baffert-trained Cruel Intention, Eclair, Charlatan, Gamine and Merneith were also tested on a substance not allowed at this level on race day. These violations occurred in the states of California, Arkansas, and Kentucky; Nothing happened in New York.
Baffert, 69, is a Hall of Fame coach who has become the face of the sport. He won the Triple Crown twice: in 2015 with American Pharoah and in 2018 with Justify.
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