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New York moving closer to 2-year ban of Bob Baffert

Trainer Bob Baffert paid a day-after visit to Authentic, winner of the 2020 Kentucky Derby. The win was a record-tying sixth victory for Baffert. The next Kentucky Derby is on May 1 at Churchill Downs.
Pat McDonogh / Courier Journal
Trainer Bob Baffert paid a day-after visit to Authentic, winner of the Kentucky Derby. The win is a record-tying sixth victory for Baffert. Sept. 6, 2020Af5i0688
Credit: Pat McDonogh / Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

The state of New York took another step toward handing trainer Bob Baffert a two-year suspension.

Independent hearing officer O. Peter Sherwood on Wednesday sided with the New York Racing Association’s push to ban Baffert from state tracks in the wake of the infamous drug scandal at last year’s Kentucky Derby and other medication violations.

Sherwood, a retired New York State Supreme Court Justice, said in a 50-page ruling released Wednesday that NYRA met its burden of proof. Sherwood said Baffert’s conduct is detrimental to the best interests of horse racing, the health and safety of jockeys and horses and overall business operations in New York.

“NYRA has reasonably concluded that it will not condone Baffert’s reckless practices, outrageous behavior and substance violations, each of which compromises the integrity of the sport,” Sherwood wrote in the report. “I conclude that NYRA has reasonably determined that he should be excluded from the race tracks for a lengthy period.”

Sherwood’s recommendation is not final. Baffert’s side and NYRA each have 14 days to offer rebuttals before a three-person committee.

The 69-year-old Baffert is a Hall of Fame trainer who has produced six Kentucky Derby winners — Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), American Pharoah (2015), Justify (2018) and Authentic (2020). American Pharoah and Justify also won the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes to win the Triple Crown.

Baffert was suspended by Churchill Downs — the site of the Kentucky Derby — through 2023 after Medina Spirit tested positive for drugs and was stripped of the victory in last May’s Run for the Roses.

Medina Spirit died in December from what Baffert said was a heart attack, though a necropsy report was inconclusive.

NYRA’s discipline against Baffert would prevent him from Saratoga Race Course, Aqueduct Racetrack and Belmont Park.

–Field Level Media