Bob Baffert is free to run horses in the state of New York again after a federal judge ruled the state’s racing association violated his constitutional rights by suspending him following the positive drug test of his horse Medina Spirit.
According to the Associated Press, Brooklyn Judge Carol Bagley Amon nullified Baffert’s suspension because the New York Racing Association failed to provide a prompt post-suspension hearing for Baffert to contest the claims against him.
Amon reportedly said such a hearing was required for the suspension to meet constitutional muster. The NYRA, who operates the state’s three biggest racetracks and the Belmont Stakes, held no hearing at all.
She reportedly concluded that Baffert “had established a likelihood that he will prove that the suspension violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” He also reportedly showed the suspension would create irreparable harm if not overturned.
Bob Baffert still suspended at Kentucky Derby track
Baffert filed his lawsuit to overturn the New York ban last month. He was suspended indefinitely in May after Medina Spirit tested positive for steroid betamethasone following its win at the Kentucky Derby.
Baffert famously defended his handling of the horse by claiming it had eaten some hay another horse had urinated on and calling criticism “cancel culture,” but later admitted the horse had been treated with an ointment containing the substance leading up to the Derby.
That suspension prevented Baffert from running both Medina Spirit and Concert Tour in the Belmont Stakes. It appears his horses will now be eligible for the 2022 Belmont Stakes.
There is still the matter of Baffert’s suspension at Churchill Downs, the site of the Kentucky Derby. That racetrack suspended him for two years in May following Medina Spirit’s second failed drug test, though the decision on whether to nullify the thoroughbred’s win is still pending.
The NYRA cited that penalty and others against Baffert, no stranger to drug violations in his career, in its decision to suspend him. It also reportedly argued in court that the public depends on it to protect the integrity of the sport and acted quickly due to the upcoming Belmont Stakes (Baffert was suspended on May 17, while the race was held June 5).
Amon reportedly wasn’t swayed by that argument:
“That may be true, but the public has no interest in having the ‘integrity of the sport’ enforced by unconstitutional means,” she wrote.
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