Two-time Triple Crown-winning horse trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended one year by the New York Racing Association, the NYRA announced Thursday. Baffert, whose camp unsuccessfully asked for a stay of the suspension, can return to horse racing in New York on Jan. 26, 2023, as he is being credited for time served.
The timeline of Baffert’s suspension means he’ll be able to participate in next year’s Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of the Triple Crown.
“This was an impartial and deliberative process that has resulted in a lengthy suspension of the sport’s most prominent trainer,” NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a statement, per ESPN. “However, this is not simply about Bob Baffert or any one individual but about protecting the integrity of the sport here in New York. Today’s decision advances that goal.”
While Baffert will serve a one-year suspension in New York, he wasn’t as fortunate in Kentucky. Churchill Downs handed the Hall of Famer a two-year suspension last June after one of his horses, the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, tested positive for a banned race-day substance. That suspension held Baffert out of the 2022 Kentucky Derby and will do the same for the 2023 event.
Medina Spirit, whose Kentucky Derby win was stripped earlier this year, collapsed and died after a workout at California’s Santa Anita Park on Dec. 6, 2021. Baffert, 69, claimed the horse died of a heart attack, but a necropsy found no definitive cause of death.
Along with Medina Spirit, the Baffert-trained horses Cruel Intention, Eclair, Charlatan, Gamine and Merneith all tested positive for banned race-day substances, though none of those incidents occurred in New York.
The panel that determined Baffert’s NYRA suspension stopped short of saying he was “doping” his horses.
“The drugs for which use Baffert was cited in three jurisdictions are allowed and commonly used but are nevertheless performance enhancing in the sense that they may suppress injuries and may allow the horse to perform at a normal level in spite of the injury if they are found to be at a level above the allowable threshold,” the panel wrote.