Bob Baffert Saratoga Entries Allowed After Judge Nullifies Suspension

Posted By Dave Bontempo on July 15, 2021

For Dennis Drazin, this one could have been 3-5 betting odds. The Monmouth Park chairman made a correct June forecast to TheLines, which has now materialized with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert gaining a court victory, allowing him to enter horses at New York tracks. So come Saratoga opening day July 15, Bob Baffert Saratoga entries will be allowed in the starting gate.

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Baffert Was Offered Starting Spot In Haskell Stakes

Drazin, who invited Baffert to enter a horse in Saturday’s Haskell Stakes when establishments in New York and Kentucky had banned him from their tracks, told TheLines that Baffert had been denied his constitutional rights by those states.

Churchill Downs and the New York Racing Association had banned him from running in those jurisdictions – without a full hearing – once Baffert’s horse Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test following the Derby triumph. Baffert immediately sued and, for the moment, has won.

“Bob was not given due process in those states,” Drazin said. “There was no formal commission hearing. This process could take several months.”

What Federal Judge Said About Baffert Suspension

A New York federal judge has nullified the suspension, finding that the New York Racing Association acted unconstitutionally by failing to let Baffert adequately respond to charges against him.

In her written ruling, Brooklyn Judge Carol Bagley Amon said a prompt post-suspension hearing where Baffert could refute the claims was required to meet constitutional muster. But she said the racing association “had held no hearing — let alone a prompt one.”

Amon said she concluded that Baffert had established a likelihood he will prove the suspension violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“The 2021 Saratoga summer meet is a one-time opportunity. And given that many of the races are limited to horses of a certain age, an inability to compete in those races now means those horses will never have the chance,” the judge wrote.

“Baffert will face substantial damage to his income, client base, and reputation if he cannot enter horses at NYRA races for the indefinite future. He has already lost one prominent client and stands to lose others, and has been deprived of the ability to compete at Belmont,” she said.

Attorney W. Craig Robertson III, who represented Baffert at a Monday hearing before Amon, said the ruling confirms that “following the Kentucky Derby, there was an improper rush to judgment and Mr. Baffert has been treated unfairly.”

He called Amon’s ruling “one step, in one venue, toward righting those wrongs,” and said he hoped it would lead to cooperation between the parties rather than division.”

Baffert indeed worked with authorities to enable Medina Spirit’s participation in the Preakness Stakes. In an agreement reached with race officials, Medina Spirit was tested early in the week of the race, with the understanding that a positive drug test would cause Baffert to scratch the horse.

Medina Spirit passed those tests and ran third in the Preakness. Baffert did not enter the Haskell Stakes, saying the race came up too quickly after the May 15 Preakness. Whether a Bob Baffert Saratoga start will come next for Medina Spirit or at a different track is still to be determined.

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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, who writes extensively on the emergence of legalized sports betting, is a recipient of the Sam Taub Award for Broadcast Excellence by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has broadcast boxing for all the major networks over the last four decades and is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame as well as the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. His work also can be seen at the Press of Atlantic City and iGamingPlayer.

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