Baffert charged by NYRA, scheduled for hearing

NEW YORK — The New York Racing Association has charged Bob Baffert with detrimental conduct and scheduled a hearing for the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer to respond to those allegations.

NYRA announced the beginning of the hearing process Friday, adding the organization believes Baffert’s conduct warrants suspension or revocation of his right to train horses or enter races at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.

Baffert was suspended by NYRA in May for Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failing a postrace drug test, and he sued to get the suspension lifted. A New York federal judge nullified the suspension in July on the grounds that NYRA acted unconstitutionally by failing to let him adequately respond.

Brooklyn Judge Carol Bagley Amon at the time said a prompt post-suspension hearing where Baffert could refute the charges was required to meet constitutional muster. NYRA scheduled Baffert’s video hearing to begin Sept. 27.

In a letter dated Sept. 9 and signed by Racing Committee Chairman Stuart Subotnick, NYRA charged Baffert with conduct detrimental to the best interests of racing, health and safety of horses and jockeys and the organization’s business operations.

NYRA said retired New York State Supreme Court Justice O. Peter Sherwood will serve as the hearing officer for Baffert’s case. Fellow trainer Marcus Vitali was also charged with detrimental conduct and has a hearing scheduled for Sept. 30 to be heard by retired New York Court of Appeals judge Robert Smith.

“NYRA has a responsibility to protect the integrity of the sport of thoroughbred racing,” NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a statement. “We are determined to ensure the actions taken in furtherance of that goal comport with the requirements of due process, which is what the hearing rules and procedures established by NYRA provide.”

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has yet to render a final verdict as part of its investigation into Medina Spirit testing positive for the steroid betamethasone. Churchill Downs suspended Baffert for two years.

When Baffert’s suspension was nullified in July, attorney Craig Robinson said, “Bob Baffert and NYRA have had a good relationship in the past. My hope is that they can get to that point again for the overall good of horse racing.”

Baffert saddled a handful of horses at Saratoga this summer after his suspension was nullified, including filly Gamine winning a $500,000 race Aug. 28. NYRA’s letter to Baffert includes reference to Gamine testing positive for betamethasone in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks, which led to her disqualification and forfeiture of the $120,000 of purse money.

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