A retired New York State Supreme Court Justice on Wednesday recommended a two-year suspension for Bob Baffert after the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer’s hearing with the New York Racing Association.
The ruling by O. Peter Sherwood is not a final decision. Baffert’s camp and NYRA each have seven days to offer rebuttals before a three-person panel rules on his status.
The panel’s decision cannot be appealed through NYRA’s process, which was developed last year after Baffert sued in federal court to get his initial suspension in the state of New York lifted. That suspension in May came before the Belmont Stakes and after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that was not permitted in a horse’s system on race day.
Churchill Downs suspended Baffert for two years, leaving him unable to enter horses in the Kentucky Derby in 2022 and 2023. Baffert is fighting that ban in federal court.
Baffert on April 3 began serving a 90-day suspension imposed by the state of Kentucky for medication violations. The suspension will be honored in all 38 racing states and would mean no Baffert-trained horses in the Preakness or Belmont.
He already has transferred horses to other trainers so they can run in the Derby on May 7.
Baffert’s future at NYRA’s three tracks – Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga Race Course – depends on the panel’s final decision.
If Saratoga attorney John J. Carusone, New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association executive director Will Alempijevic and New York Race Track Chaplaincy of America leader the Rev. Humberto Chavez take up Sherwood’s full recommendation, Baffert would be banned at NYRA tracks until summer 2024.
Medina Spirit tested positive for the corticosteroid betamethasone, which is not allowed in Kentucky on race day, and was later disqualified. The colt finished third in the Preakness two weeks after the Derby.
Medina Spirit collapsed and died in December in California. An exam found no definitive cause of death.
Baffert is a Hall of Fame trainer who won the Triple Crown twice: in 2015 with American Pharoah and in 2018 with Justify.