Bob Baffert's New York Suspension for Medina Spirit's Positive Test Lifted by Judge

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJuly 14, 2021

Trainer Bob Baffert at a press conference after Medina Spirit won the 147th Running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. on Saturday, May 1, 2021. Medina Spirit won the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday evening, awarding a seventh Kentucky Derby win to Baffert and a fourth to jockey John Velazquez. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bob Baffert's suspension by the New York Racing Association was overturned Wednesday by a federal judge.

According to Larry Neumeister of the Associated Press, Brooklyn Judge Carol Bagley Amon ruled that the NYRA likely violated the due process clause of the 14th Amendment by not giving Baffert the opportunity to respond to the cheating claims made against him—and his subsequent suspension—after his horse, Medina Spirit, failed a drug test at the Kentucky Derby.

Baffert was also suspended by Churchill Downs for two years after Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone a second time. NYRA lawyer Henry Greenberg noted Monday that Medina Spirit's failed test was the fifth time a Baffert horse failed a drug test in the last year, per the AP.

"Rarely in the history of the sport has there been such a confluence of drug positives involving so prominent a trainer," NYRA lawyers wrote.

Greenberg also argued that the association acted quickly to suspend Baffert with the Belmont Stakes approaching at the time, in early June. And he argued that Baffert would get his hearing Aug. 11, when the association will announce the duration of his suspension.

"Isn't that a little too late?" Amon asked. "The problem I have, counsel, is that he was suspended and it's up in the air."

Baffert's legal counsel argued that he never had the chance to defend himself, calling into question the legality of the suspension.

"You just sent him a letter saying, 'You're out,' with no due process whatsoever," Amon noted.

Because the NYRA "held no hearing—let alone a prompt one," the judge nullified the suspension. The ruling opens the door for Baffert to race his horses at Saratoga this week.

"The 2021 Saratoga summer meet is a one-time opportunity. And given that many of the races are limited to horses of a certain age, an inability to compete in those races now means those horses will never have the chance," Amon wrote.

"Baffert will face substantial damage to his income, client base, and reputation if he cannot enter horses at NYRA races for the indefinite future," she added. "He has already lost one prominent client and stands to lose others, and has been deprived of the ability to compete at Belmont."