Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s lawsuit against the New York Racing Association was dismissed Friday, clearing the way for his pre-suspension hearing from the organization to go forward.
Judge Carol Bagley Amon of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York threw out Baffert’s attempt to have his suspension hearing overturned. Instead, NYRA’s pre-suspension hearing begins Monday. Amon said that satisfies Baffert’s legal right to due process.
In her ruling, Amon also maintains that Baffert has legal recourse after the pre-suspension hearing concludes. That hearing, in front of retired New York State Supreme Court Justice O. Peter Sherwood, is expected to take several days, with more time added on for Sherwood’s report.
“NYRA is gratified by Judge Amon’s decision to dismiss Mr. Baffert’ suit in its entirety,” NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna told the Daily Racing Form. “As we have said throughout this process, NYRA’s focus in this matter is protecting the integrity of the sport of Thoroughbred racing in New York.”
Baffert, NYRA locked in legal tug-o-war
This process began when NYRA suspended Baffert before the Belmont Stakes. That came on the heels of Churchill Downs suspending the trainer after his Kentucky Derby champion Medina Spirit tested positive for the anti-inflammatory betamethasone. NYRA’s suspension encompassed Baffert running any of his horses at NYRA tracks or having barn space at any NYRA track.
The organization suspended Baffert as much for his five medication violations in a year as Medina Spirit’s positive betamethasone test. Baffert maintained Medina Spirit’s positive test came about because of an ointment for a skin rash, not an injection.
Baffert appealed his NYRA suspension, claiming his rights to due process was violated. Amon agreed, ruling last year that NYRA shouldn’t have suspended Baffert without a hearing. NYRA maintained it had the right to suspend Baffert as a private entity, much like Churchill Downs did.
But Amon threw that argument out, saying that NYRA was a de-facto state agency, since it receives state funds and is regulated by the state. She overturned the suspension, allowing Baffert to run throughout Saratoga’s lucrative summer meet.