Trainer Bob Baffert was handed a 15-day suspension by the Oaklawn Park Board of Stewards on Wednesday after two of his horses, Charlatan and Gamine, tested positive for a numbing agent following their races on the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G1) program at Oaklawn Park.
Charlatan won a division of the Arkansas Derby while Gamine won an allowance race earlier on the program. Each subsequently tested positive for lidocaine, a legal but regulated substance in horse racing. The Arkansas Racing Commission ruled both wins would be vacated and Baffert would be suspended from Aug. 1-15 under the commission’s Rule 1233, which declares a trainer as ultimately responsible for the condition of any horse that’s entered to race.
Baffert and his representatives have contended the trace amounts of lidocaine found in both horse’s systems came from a medicinal patch containing lidocaine worn on the back of assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes, who was recovering from a broken pelvis. They said the drug had been transferred from Barnes’ hands to the horses when tongue ties were applied.
Lidocaine is a legal substance used on horses for suturing wounds and other purposes. However, it is regulated because of its potential to mask lameness in a horse. In Arkansas, there is a 72-hour recommended withdrawal time and on raceday the threshold is 20 picograms per milliliter. Gamine was found to have 185 picograms in her system, while Charlatan had 46 picograms per milliliter.
Gamine has subsequently won the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park, while Charlatan suffered an ankle injury in training after the Arkansas Derby and is expected to return later this year.
Baffert told Fred Cowgill of WLKY in Kentucky he plans to appeal the suspension.
"We presented the truth about what happened...all I can do is tell the truth and people are going to be their own judge," Baffert said. "It was innocent. It was too bad because those two horses ran incredible races...We'll appeal it. Everyone will see exactly what happened."