Story at a glance

  • Embattled horse trainer Bob Baffert is suing the New York Racing Association for allegedly infringing on his constitutional right to due process after the association banned him from their tracks.
  • The Hall of Fame trainer argues the association denied his fundamental rights by moving forward with his suspension without “notice or opportunity to be heard.”
  • Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby, previously banned Baffert from the track for two years after a second drug test confirmed the presence of the prohibited substance in Medina Spirit's samples.

Embattled horse trainer Bob Baffert is suing the New York Racing Association (NYRA) for allegedly infringing on his constitutional right to due process after the association banned him from their tracks, which includes the site of The Belmont Stakes, in May. 

The NYRA temporarily banned Baffert after his Kentucky Derby winning horse Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory drug that is prohibited at any level on race day. 

“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 at the time. “That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of thoroughbred racing.”

But the Hall of Fame trainer argues the association denied his fundamental rights by moving forward with his suspension without “notice or opportunity to be heard,” The Courier Journal reported. Additionally, Baffert’s suit claims the NYRA controls all thoroughbred racing tracks in the state, making it essentially a monopoly, and limiting the trainer’s opportunity to us his “State-issued trainer's license anywhere in the State of New York.” 

“NYRA does not have the legal authority to suspend Baffert-that rests solely with the Gaming Commission as the entity that issued his occupational license-a license that affords Baffert a property interest under state law sufficient to invoke due process protections,” the suit continued. 


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Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby, previously banned Baffert from the track for two years after a second drug test confirmed the presence of the prohibited substance in Medina Spirit's samples. 

"Reckless practices and substance violations that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated," Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in a statement.

"Mr. Baffert's record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby. Given these repeated failures over the last year, including the increasingly extraordinary explanations, we firmly believe that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our duty and responsibility," Carstanjen added.

Attorneys for Baffert and Medina Spirit’s owner Amr Zedan said following the suspension that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has agreed to submit original samples to an independent laboratory to test for compounds consistent with an ointment used to treat the colt’s dermatitis.


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Published on Jun 15, 2021