Fighting his suspension: Bob Baffert sues NYRA

Fighting his suspension: Bob Baffert sues NYRA
Photo: Benoit Photo

Bob Baffert is suing the New York Racing Association in federal court in an attempt to end his indefinite suspension, levied after Medina Spirit’s positive drug test following the Kentucky Derby, according to legal documents filed Monday.

The trainer claims his rights to due process and to participate in New York racing are being violated by the organization.

“NYRA has, without legal authority and without any notice, or opportunity to be heard, attempted to indefinitely suspend Baffert’s trainer’s license issued by the Gaming Commission,” read the complaint, filed Monday in the Eastern District Court of New York, “thereby preventing Baffert from practicing in his chosen profession or using his state issued license on state-owned property.”

The filing also made the claim that Baffert was suspended as a result of “a media frenzy and the ongoing Kentucky investigation,” and said the organization lacks the authority to suspend the trainer.

“NYRA will vigorously defend the action it has taken in this matter,” Patrick McKenna, NYRA communications director, said in a statement.

According to the complaint, only the New York State Gaming Commision has the authority to suspend Baffert.

It also claims the Kentucky investigation could drag on for “years,” meaning the NYRA suspension could be extremely long.

“NYRA’s impulsive decision to deprive Baffert of his professional livelihood within the state of New York is one that it had no legal authority to make,” the filing says. “NYRA cannot usurp the Gaming Commission’s sole authority to adjudicate matters concerning Baffert’s license and his ability to participate in New York races.”

The suit sought a temporary restraint as well as temporary and permanent injunctions to end the suspension as well as financial damages to be determined.

The filing also included a letter sent to Baffert by David O’Rourke, CEO of NYRA, at the onset of the suspension on May 17.

“NYRA has determined that the best interests of Thoroughbred racing compel the temporary suspension of your entering horses in races and occupying stall space at our racetracks,” the letter read. “To do otherwise would compromise NYRA’s investment in its operations as well as the public’s perception of thoroughbred racing generally.”

In addition to the NYRA suspension, Baffert was issued a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc. after Medina Spirit’s drug sample splits came back positive from his May 1 victory in the Derby.

“On May 17, the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) temporarily suspended Bob Baffert from entering horses in races and occupying stall space at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack,” McKenna said in the statement. “NYRA took this action to protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public and racing participants following Mr. Baffert’s public acknowledgement that the Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, a banned corticosteroid. In making the determination to temporarily suspend Mr. Baffert, NYRA took into account the fact that other horses trained by Mr. Baffert have failed drug tests in the recent past, resulting in the assessment of penalties against him by thoroughbred racing regulators in Kentucky, California, and Arkansas.”

The full complaint can be read below.

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