Trainer Bob Baffert sues to get New York suspension lifted

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FILE - In this May 1, 2019, file photo, trainer Bob Baffert looks out from his barn before a workout at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Baffert was suspended for two years by Churchill Downs on Wednesday, Mune 2, 2021, after an additional drug test of Medina Spirit confirmed the presence of the steroid betamethasone in the Kentucky Derby winner’s system. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Trainer Bob Baffert sued in federal court Tuesday in an effort to get his suspension by the New York Racing Association lifted.

The NYRA suspended the Hall of Famer in mid-May after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a postrace drug test that found 21 picograms of betamethasone. The steroid helps reduce swelling and Baffert acknowledged that Medina Spirit tested positive for the substance that is banned on race day in Kentucky. The trainer later said an ointment used to treat a skin condition contained the substance.

In the filing in Brooklyn, Baffert said he was suspended without “any prior notice” by the NYRA, which did not specify “duration or terms of the suspension” and did not accuse him of violating any New York state law or regulation. He said any prolonged suspension could put him out of business in New York if horses under his care are transferred to other trainers.

The NYRA, which operates Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga Race Course, said it took the action “to protect the integrity of the sport.” NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna said the organization took into account that other Baffert-trained horses have failed drug tests in the recent past, resulting in penalties against him by regulators in Kentucky, California and Arkansas.

Churchill Downs suspended Baffert for two years earlier this month after an additional drug test of Medina Spirit confirmed betamethasone in the horse's system. Baffert cannot enter any horses in the Kentucky Derby or other races at the storied Louisville track through the spring of 2023.

Churchill Downs said it reserves the right to extend Baffert’s suspension if he has additional violations in other states. Baffert has had five in the past 13 months.

Last week, Baffert and Zedan Racing Stables also sued for a temporary injunction against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, seeking further testing to prove that traces of betamethasone found in Medina Spirit's system during a positive drug test did not come from an injection.

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