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Famed horse trainer Bob Baffert is serving a two-year ban from horse racing after his horse, Medina Spirit, tested positive for high levels of betamethasone following a victory at the Kentucky Derby in May. Retaliating with legal action in response to the threat of stripping the horse of its title and the lengthy ban, Baffert won his first court case in New York against the New York Racing Association.
On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that the NYRA would not be able to uphold its ban in the midst of legal action from Baffert. After Medina Spirit tested positive for 21 picograms of an anti-inflammatory steroid following the Derby win, Baffert and his team were banned from attending Churchill Downs until 2024.
In response to the positive steroid test, Baffert initially cited an ointment used on Medina Spirit that indirectly led to heightened levels of betamethasone.
Reports detail that Judge Carol Bagley Amon issued the decision because Baffert had not received a substantial hearing on behalf of the NYRA prior to being banned. Bagley Amon insisted that Baffert deserved a “‘prompt’ post-suspension hearing.”
The court’s statement read:
“On May 17, 2021, at a time of crisis for the sport, the New York Racing Association, Inc. took emergency action to temporarily suspend Bob Baffert from racing or training at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course. This measure was taken to protect the integrity of thoroughbred racing. NYRA will continue to honor that commitment so that fans, the betting public and racing participants can be confident in a level playing field.
“NYRA is reviewing the court’s decision today to determine our legal options and next steps. What is clear, however, is that Mr. Baffert’s actions and behavior can either elevate or damage the sport. We expect Mr. Baffert to exert appropriate controls over his operation.”
Following the suspension, NYRA CEO Dave O’Rourke spoke on the importance of suspending Baffert and all groups involved in performance-enhancing tactics.
“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 O’Rourke. “That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of thoroughbred racing.”