A New York State federal judge on Wednesday nullified the suspension of legendary horse trainer Bob Baffert.
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) suspended Baffert in May after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, which the 68-year-old trained, tested positive for a banned substance.
Brooklyn judge Carol Bagley Amon reasoned that NYRA acted unconstitutionally by failing to set up a prompt post-suspension hearing, a forum that would have provided Baffert with an opportunity to refute the allegations.
Amon found they “had held no hearing — let alone a prompt one.”
“Following the Kentucky Derby, there was an improper rush to judgement and Mr. Baffert has been treated unfairly,” Baffert’s attorney, W. Craig Robertson III, said. “Bob Baffert and NYRA have had a good relationship in the past. My hope is that they can get to that point again for the overall good of horse racing.”
Harry Greenberg, representing the NYRA, maintained the organization acted in a swift manner so as to reach a decision before the Belmont Stakes, which at the time was just a few weeks away.
In her ruling, Amon also noted the suspension, should it have been upheld, would have caused Baffert irreparable harm.
“Baffert will face substantial damage to his income, client base and reputation if he cannot enter horses at NYRA races for the indefinite future,” Amon wrote. “He has already lost one prominent client and stands to lose others, and has been deprived of the ability to compete at Belmont.”
Last month, Baffert and the owners of Medina Spirit filed a lawsuit against Kentucky racing officials. He claimed to have been suspended without “any prior notice,” and aimed to prevent a violation of due process rights.
In the immediate aftermath of Medina Spirit’s positive test, Baffert denied any wrongdoing, instead lamenting “cancel culture.” Later, Baffert conceded that Medina Spirit received an antifungal ointment that contained the illegal steroid betamethasone.
Including the latest episode with Medina Spirit, Baffert’s horses have failed 31 drug tests during his Hall of Fame career, according to The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky.
The original suspension prohibited Baffert from entering any of his horses at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course, which opens for the season Thursday.
Baffert remains suspended from Churchill Downs, which announced earlier in June that it would suspend the trainer for two years, precluding him from entering horses in the next two Kentucky Derbies.