It appears that New York Racing Association (NYRA) has taken a zero tolerance stance when it comes to trainers, racehorses and doping. Today, NYRA announced the temporary suspension of heavily decorated Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert in the wake of Baffert admitting that his Kentucky Derby–winning horse, Medina Spirit, had tested positive for a banned anti-inflammatory drug, betamethasone, after the race’s completion. For an unspecified amount of time, Baffert will be banned from entering horses in races and occupying stall space at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack.
“In order to maintain a successful Thoroughbred racing industry in New York, NYRA must protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public and racing participants,” said NYRA President and CEO David O’Rourke in a prepared statement. “That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of Thoroughbred racing.”
On May 9, Baffert publicly acknowledged that Medina Spirit had tested positive for the banned corticosteroid that would trigger a disqualification and loss of purse money should a split sample return the same finding. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is required to await the split-sample results before rendering a final determination in the matter.
This past weekend, Baffert chose to stay in California instead of going to Pimlico Race Course to manage his stable of entrants on Preakness Day. Maryland racing officials allowed Baffert’s horses to race, including Medina Spirit, as long as they would be subject to more aggressive testing. Medina Spirit ended up coming in third in the Preakness Stakes.
In addition to the ongoing investigation into Medina Spirit’s victory in the Kentucky Derby, NYRA says it has taken into account the fact that other horses trained by Baffert have failed drug tests in the recent past, resulting in the assessment of penalties against him by Thoroughbred racing regulators in Kentucky, California and Arkansas. During the temporary suspension, it will not accept entries or provide stall space to any individual employed by Bob Baffert Racing Stables.
NYRA says it expects to make a final determination regarding the length and terms of Baffert’s suspension based on information revealed during the course of the ongoing investigation in Kentucky, such as the post–Kentucky Derby test results of Medina Spirit.
It’s unclear whether, by naming Saratoga in the group of racetracks that Baffert has been temporarily suspended from, NYRA will be extending its temporary ban into or throughout this summer’s Saratoga season, which kicks off on July 15 and runs through September 6.
The temporary suspension comes on the heels of NYRA announcing late last December that Lasix, another drug trainers often administer to Thoroughbreds to curb bleeding and make them potentially run faster times, which is banned at many racetracks, would also be banned from use in stakes races at NYRA tracks for the entirety of the 2021 season.
Baffert, who has won a pair of Triple Crowns, one with 2021 Hall of Fame inductee American Pharoah (2015), the other with Justify (2018), was himself inducted into the racing Hall of Fame in 2009. He has won a record-breaking septet of Kentucky Derby races.