A federal judge ruled the New York Racing Association’s (NYRA) suspension of thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert unconstitutional on Wednesday, allowing him to run horses in the state again.
The ruling was a legal win for Baffert who has been battling since his Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit returned a positive post-race test for betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory that can’t be used on race days.
Brooklyn-based judge Carol Bagley said the NYRA acted improperly in suspending Baffert without holding a hearing.
The NYRA had acted after Churchill Downs banned the seven-time Kentucky Derby winner Baffert from running at the track for two years.
Despite that ban by the Louisville track, Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby victory still stands, pending further investigation by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
Baffert, who guided horses to Triple Crown victories in both 2015 and 2018, says the steroid was contained in an ointment used to treat a skin complaint Medina Spirit had been suffering.
He sued the NYRA over its suspension, and Bagley ruled that the association was required to give him a prompt hearing.
“NYRA has held no hearing — let alone a prompt one,” she wrote. “With so much on the line, Baffert was entitled to (at least) a ‘prompt’ post-deprivation hearing which should have already occurred.”
The ruling means that Baffert can enter horses in the prestigious meeting at Saratoga, New York, that starts on Thursday.
“I have said from the beginning that, following the Kentucky Derby, there was an improper rush to judgment and Mr. Baffert has been treated unfairly,” Baffert’s attorney Craig Robertson said.
“This is one step, in one venue, toward righting those wrongs.”
Meanwhile, NYRA president David O’Rourke said the organization would review the decision “to determine legal options and next steps.”