The ramifications of the initial positive post-race drug test for Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) winner Medina Spirit increased in severity for trainer Bob Baffert as the New York Racing Association announced May 17 a temporary suspension of Baffert from entering horses in races and occupying stall space at its three racetracks.
“In order to maintain a successful Thoroughbred racing industry in New York, NYRA must protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public, and racing participants,” said NYRA president and CEO Dave O’Rourke in a statement. “That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of Thoroughbred racing.”
During the temporary suspension, NYRA said it will not accept entries or provide stall space to anyone employed by Bob Baffert Racing Stables at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course, or Aqueduct Racetrack.
Reached by email, Baffert’s attorney, W. Craig Robertson III, wrote, “I am just now reviewing the NYRA decision and then I will discuss it with Bob, along with all of his legal options. No formal statement or decision until both of those take place.”
Baffert, who did not figure to have a starter in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) prior to the suspension, has made 362 starts at NYRA tracks with 98 wins, including 41 grade 1 stakes victories, and has earned more than $24.34 million at NYRA tracks.
In its decision, NYRA said it took into account failed drug tests in the recent past by horses trained by the Hall of Famer, resulting in penalties leveled by regulators in Kentucky, California, and Arkansas.
NYRA said it will base a final determination regarding the length and terms of the suspension based on information revealed during the ongoing investigation in Kentucky. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is awaiting a split-sample result from Medina Spirit before scheduling a stewards’ hearing if the split sample confirms the initial finding.
Baffert announced May 9 that the Kentucky Derby winner had tested positive for 21 picograms per milliliter of blood or plasma of the banned corticosteroid betamethasone. That same day, Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, announced it would not accept entries from Baffert.
Zedan Racing Stables’ Medina Spirit finished third in the May 15 Preakness Stakes (G1) as the Maryland Jockey Club accepted entries from Baffert after subjecting his starters in graded stakes to three rounds of testing.
While Baffert, a two-time Triple Crown winner, is based in California among the horses he had considered shipping to New York for the June 5 Belmont Stakes undercard was Charlatan for the Metropolitan Handicap (G1).
The grade 1-winning Charlatan, owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Fred Hertrich III, John Fielding, and Golconda Stables, has not raced since finishing second in the $20 million Saudi Cup Feb. 20.
“The plan has been to run in the Met Mile,” said Jack Wolf, founder and managing partner of Starlight Racing. “Tom Ryan (of SF) is the managing partner and he will have to sit down with Bob and the rest of us to see if we want to run in the Met Mile and how it would be best accomplished. If Bob is suspended, we probably would have to find a different trainer to handle him, but that’s not a decision for me to make.” (by Bloodhorse.com)