Bob Baffert decided to fight his New York Racing Association suspension last month. He contended that he did not have the opportunity to defend himself against his allegations.
A New York federal judge essentially agreed, ruling in Baffert’s favor on Wednesday and nullifying his suspension. As a result, the legendary horse trainer can resume competing in the Empire State.
The ruling allows Baffert the chance to enter horses into the Saratoga summer meet. Previously, Baffert could not enter races at Saratoga Race Course, Belmont and Aqueduct.
Baffert’s NYRA suspension deemed unconstitutional
Bob Baffert’s legal team argued that he had been denied his Fourteenth Amendment right to defend himself before getting suspended. Brooklyn Judge Carol Bagley Amon agreed. She stated the NYRA was required to give at least a prompt post-suspension hearing where Baffert could have defended himself:
“[But the NYRA] had held no hearing – let alone a prompt one.”
The original suspension came swiftly after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned drug called betamethasone. Dave O’Rourke, president of the NYRA, defended the suspension in the interest of protecting the integrity of horse racing.
However, Amon disagreed with that justification to deny Baffert his constitutional right to a defense.
“That may be true,” Amon declared, “but the public has no interest in having the ‘integrity of the sport’ enforced by unconstitutional means.”
NYRA will continue to consider legal options
After the ruling, O’Rourke said that the NYRA would review the court’s decision before determining its next course of action. Baffert attorney W. Craig Robertson III, on the other hand, is hoping to put this issue to rest.
“Bob Baffert and NYRA have had a good relationship in the past,” the attorney said. “My hope is that they can get to that point again for the overall good of horse racing.”
Amon noted the importance of allowing Baffert to enter horses at Saratoga after having getting barred from the Belmont Stakes. She believes that significant damage has already occurred:
“Baffert will face substantial damage to his income, client base, and reputation if he cannot enter horses at NYRA races for the indefinite future. He has already lost one prominent client and stands to lose others, and has been deprived of the ability to compete at Belmont.”
The 2021 Saratoga meet began Thursday and runs through Sept. 6. Upcoming Grade 1 stakes races in August could be where Baffert targets a return.