Horse Racing

Attorneys Outline Their Cases During Baffert .’s NYRA Hearing

The New York Racing Association’s disciplinary hearing against coach Bob Baffert began January 24 with verbal arguments by attorneys for both sides in front of the hearing officer and Judge. Retired New York State Supreme Court Justice O. Peter Sherwood.

The hearing, expected to last the longest, if not a whole week, began with Baffert’s attendance. The opening statements by opposing attorneys paint quite the opposite picture of the Hall of Fame coach. The session, which lasted more than seven hours, including a lunch break, featured testimony from just one NYRA witness, Rick Goodell, a former assistant counsel to the New York State Gaming Commission and former president of the Association of Commissioners international racing driver. Attorney Committee.

NYRA attorney Henry Greenberg, calling the hearing “extremely important” to racehorses, horsemen and fans of the sport, urged Sherwood to order Baffert’s suspension. for a long time. He listed the damage to the integrity of the sport through seven drug offenses by horses trained by Baffert since July 2019. Greenberg has successfully played Baffert’s Triple Crown on track, saying that the only Triple Crown for which Baffert was responsible for that period destroyed “three major stakes” in the Arkansas Derby (G1), the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and the Kentucky Derby owned by Woodford Reserve (G1). ) presented (a 2020 and 2021 race trilogy, in which the Baffert horse failed the post-race drug tests and Baffert was sanctioned.)

“We’re going to show that one man, Bob Baffert, took a ball that destroyed the integrity of the sport,” Greenberg said of Baffert’s violations and his refusal to admit fault. “His rampant violation over a 14-month period is something that nowhere else in modern racing history can you find anything like it by a renowned coach. .”

Baffert W. Craig Robertson III’s attorney, in his opening statement, outlined how the NYRA inducted Baffert into the Walk of Fame at Racecourse Saratoga in 2018. He also stressed that Baffert has not been suspended for any drug offences as of July 2019, that he has never been charged with an offence in his 30 years of racing in New York, and was suspended by the NYRA at 58 years old. day. Robertson suggests that the NYRA’s desire to suspend Baffert was motivated by the jealousy of NYRA board members that caused a relationship against the trainer because their horses couldn’t outrun his.

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“The prejudice, the vengeance that the NYRA has, knows no bounds. Mr. Baffert has dedicated his life to horse racing. For 46 years he has been a tremendous ambassador for equestrianism,” said Robertson. “. “Now, three years after they inducted him into their Hall of Fame, the NYRA wants to randomly throw him out of their ears, all because some powerful board member has an affair. personal system and want to eliminate a competitor.”

Gamine was guided from the truck by assistant coach Bob Baffert.  Jimmy Barnes and will be participating in the Test Stake on the Shipper's Day pass Saturday to Saratoga Racecourse Tuesday, August 4, 2020 in Saratoga Springs, NY
Photo: Skip Dickstein

Gamine to start appearing in 2020 at Saratoga . Racecourse

Greenberg spoke while the timeline shown shows seven times Baffert’s horse has been charged with drug offenses over the past few years, starting with Cruel intentions (phenylbutazone, July 27, 2019) and ending with Medina Spirit (betamethasone, May 1) in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Also included Éclair (phenylbutazone, August 3, 2019), Gamine (hydroxylidocaine, May 2, 2020), Quack (hydroxylidocaine, May 2, 2020) during the Arkansas Derby, Mereneith (dextrorphan, July 25, 2020) and Gamine (betamethasone, September 4) during the Kentucky Oaks 2020.

Greenberg also lays out how Baffert said that in 2020 he would work with the vet to eliminate any future violations but never went on to hire one for that role, and how the trainer asserts. determined a week after the Kentucky Derby that Medina Spirit never received treatment. betamethasone, only to announce a few days later that he had applied Otomax cream, containing betamethasone, to the rash on Medina Spirit in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

“NYRA has an obligation to protect equestrian sport and its integrity,” Greenberg said of the decision to suspend Baffert. “What if those organizations don’t use their best efforts, everything in their power, to protect the safety of the animals in this case? to the circuses where There are domesticated lions and they no longer exist, so the NYRA and such organizations must do everything in their power to protect the safety of horses and in doing so, they protect the horses. The NYRA has an obligation to protect these athletes and to make sure that these drugs are not in the blood of a horse on race day, to ensure everyone’s safety and security. Protect the fans, the betting public.”

Greenberg also detailed evidence including the 2019 California Horse Racing Commission investigation into Baffert’s stable at Del Mar found 25 mislabeled prescriptions in an unlocked cabinet.

“His barn was a ramshackle mess,” Greenberg said.

Robertson defended Baffert, saying the two-time Triple Crown winner is “one of the most accomplished and respected individuals in all of racing, not just now, but of all time.

“The facts will be what is included in the evidence, not what Mr. Greenberg just said, because the facts will be very very different,” said Robertson.

Robertson said Baffert’s New York training license was renewed without issue in December 2020 and in May 2020, violations at Oaklawn Park regarding Gamine and Charlatan, the governing bodies revoked the status of both horses and suspended Baffert, punishing only the trainer.

“The most (Greenberg) will be able to identify is that there are very few legal, therapeutic drugs that are authorized for use in daily horse racing,” says Robertson. “Now the NYRA wants to step outside the regulatory framework and sue again on issues that were considered in California, Arkansas and Kentucky, even though they didn’t happen in New York. And even though those agencies say they don’t. should suspend, they want to put all that aside and impose their own suspension.

“It’s fake outrage (by the NYRA),” he continued. “It is designed to obscure their true motives. They are trying to ruin this Man’s career due to the personal behavior of a few board members.”

Goodell’s testimony provides details of each drug violation and also includes video clips of Baffert denying use of betamethasone on Medina Spirit during a May 9 media conference as well as interviews. on “The Dan Patrick Show”, ESPN and Fox News.

He said if Baffert’s drug offenses occurred in New York, Baffert would be subject to a series of suspensions that could last for a total of 240 days. In cross-examination by Baffert attorney Clark Brewster of Goodell, the attorney who questioned that total, pointed out that New York’s phenylbutazone threshold in 2019 was lower than California’s and that it wouldn’t breach in the Empire State. Goodell does not dispute that point.

Brewster also used a questionnaire that focused on how offending drugs are allowed in a racing setting and are commonly used to treat horses. He assumed that the average was mild and that the presence of the drug in the horse’s system, in and of itself, was not violated. Goodell countered that there are drug recall guidelines in place to avoid failure in post-race trials.

Brewster also brought up an issue with members of the NYRA Board of Directors who owned racehorses with Baffert runners. He said board member Ogden Phipps II and the Phipps family own part of the Move one , who was defeated by Medina Spirit in the Kentucky Derby. He added that board member Stuart Janney III also raced a horse on that Churchill Downs card (Bright red sky) finished after a winning Baffert horse (Du Jour at American Turf Stakes presented by River City Gaming [G2T]), and lists other board members including Andrew Rosen, president Marc Holliday and Michael Dubb as owners who have raced with Baffert.

Medina Spirit dawned after winning the Kentucky Derby (G1).  Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses, people and scenes at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 2, 2021.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Medina Spirit dawns after winning the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs May 2, 2021

Goodell replied that he was not aware of any NYRA board members and was unable to answer questions.

Brewster also questioned Goodell about other coaches in New York with multiple drug offenses but did not receive a definitive answer.

Goodell’s testimony will continue January 25 in the Manhattan office for the hearing.

During Monday’s hearing, Baffert’s attorneys hinted that the trainer would testify in his own defense and would be cross-examined at some point during the proceedings.

The hearing was the result of the NYRA’s May 17, 2021 decision to temporarily suspend Baffert following news that Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test. Baffert won in federal court, securing the July 14 ban due to a lack of due process that brought the ban to an end.

In response, the NYRA created a new set of disciplinary rules and regulations, leading to a hearing Monday that could eventually reinstate the suspension.

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