On Thursday, the New York Racing Association suspended coach Bob Baffert for one year for repeated drug violations.
The panel noted that Baffert served time after the initial suspension, which makes the two-time Triple Crown winner eligible to ride again in New York on January 26. The final decision marks the end of a long-running dispute over Baffert’s status in a state that began in May 2021.
“It was an impartial and measured process that resulted in the long-term suspension of the most famous athletic coach,” NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a statement. “However, this is not just about Bob Baffert or any individual, but about protecting the integrity of the sport here in New York. Today’s decision advances that goal.”
The ban is shorter than two years when Churchill Downs suspended Baffert after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not legal on race day. Retired New York State Supreme Court Judge O. Peter Sherwood, who served as an NYRA hearer, previously recommended a two-year suspension.
The Baffert camp asked for a stay of the NYRA suspension, which was immediately denied. The message asking for comment on Baffert or his lawyer was not immediately returned.
The commission’s decision cannot be appealed through the NYRA process, which was developed last year after Baffert successfully filed a lawsuit in federal court to have his original suspension in New York State overturned. Baffert is also fighting in federal court against a Churchill Downs ban that would have kept him ineligible to race in the Derby in 2022 and 23.
Under the terms of the suspension agreed upon by a panel consisting of Saratoga attorney John J. Caruson, New York Thoroughbred Association Executive Director Will Alempievich, and New York Racetrack America’s Chaplain Leader Rev. Humberto Chavez, Baffert will be eligible to be part of the Belmont Stakes next year. .
The Commission, in its 14-page ruling, disagreed with Sherwood over Baffert’s “doping” of his horses, stating: “The drugs that Baffert mentioned in three jurisdictions are legal and widely used, but nonetheless improve performance in in the sense that they can suppress injury and can allow the horse to behave at a normal level despite the injury if they are found to be above an acceptable threshold.”
Medina Spirit tested positive for the corticosteroid betamethasone, which is not legal in Kentucky on race day, and was later disqualified. The colt finished third in the Preakness two weeks after the Derby.
Medina Spirit collapsed and died in December in California. Examination did not find the exact cause of death.
Cruel Intention, Eclair, Charlatan, Gamine and Merneith trained by Baffert also tested positive for a substance not allowed at that level on race day. These violations occurred in California, Arkansas, or Kentucky; nothing happened in New York.
Baffert, 69, is a Hall of Famer coach turned face of the sport. He has won the Triple Crown twice: in 2015 with American Pharoah and in 2018 with Justify.
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