Bob Baffert won a round in court on Wednesday, when a federal judge granted the legendary horse trainer’s request that his suspension by the New York Racing Association (NYRA) be lifted until his lawsuit against the organization is over.
Baffert fell under scrutiny following the Kentucky Derby this year, after Medina Spirit – his seventh horse to win the esteemed race – tested positive for betamethasone, a substance that is prohibited on race-day in Kentucky.
Baffert denied drugging the horse, and urged critics to wait for an investigation to be completed regarding the explanation for his horse testing positive for corticosteroid. He later acknowledged the horse was treated with an ointment that might have contained the substance.
Following Medina Spirit’s drug test, Churchill Downs suspended the trainer for two years, prompting him to sue the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
Baffert was also suspended by the NYRA following the Derby, meaning he was not allowed to enter horses at the Belmont Stakes – which he said cost him big bucks. Baffert sued the NYRA for the losses incurred by the suspension it imposed, and asked that the suspension be put on hold until the completion of his lawsuit against the group.
BOB BAFFERT SUING NEW YORK RACING ASSOCIATION FOLLOWING SUSPENSION
Judge Carol Bagley Amon of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York granted his request – just one day before the start of the Saratoga summer meet.
“The hardships that Baffert would suffer absent an injunction weigh heavily on the other side of the scale,” Amon wrote in her decision. “The suspension is indefinite, and NYRA concedes at most that Baffert’s claims might “be decided within the year.”
The judge went on to call the 2021 Saratoga summer meet “a one-time opportunity,” pointing out that since “many of the races are limited to horses of a certain age, an inability to compete in these races now means those horses will never have the chance.”
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“Baffert will face substantial damage to his income, client base, and reputation if he cannot enter horses at NYRA races for the indefinite future,” Amon continued. “He has already lost one prominent client and stands to lose others, and has been deprived of the ability to compete at Belmont.”
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Amon wrote that she is “sensitive to NYRA’s concerns about Baffert’s involvement in the events surrounding Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby performance, and the fear that history might repeat itself in New York,” but determined: “For the reasons stated, the actual and substantial harm that Baffert will suffer absent an injunction outweighs the speculative harms that NYRA raises.”
Marta Dhanis and Daniel Canova contributed to this report.