Baffert Attorneys: 'It Does Not Serve The Integrity Of Horse Racing To Suspend First And Ask Questions Later' - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Baffert Attorneys: ‘It Does Not Serve The Integrity Of Horse Racing To Suspend First And Ask Questions Later’

Trainer Bob Baffert

Just five days before a scheduled hearing, attorneys for embattled trainer Bob Baffert filed a 434-page memorandum supporting their attempt to convince the court to overturn the New York Racing Association's ban on Baffert. According to the Thoroughbred Daily News, Baffert's attorneys allege that NYRA has “vindictively” targeted the trainer utilizing “hypocrisy” and “backdoor” tactics. The filing also zeroes in on two legal arguments: that the ban violates the trainer's right to due process, and that NYRA has no authority to issue a ban.

“Nowhere in NYRA's Response is there any contention that Baffert has violated any New York statute or racing rule,” the memo states. “In fact, the opposite is true. Over the course of his 46-year training career, including more than 30 years of racing in New York, Baffert has never even been accused of violating a New York rule and he has never faced discipline from either NYRA or the New York State Gaming Commission [NYSGC].

“Despite his distinguished New York racing career, without even a hint of wrongdoing, NYRA believes it has free rein to unilaterally void his constitutionally protected property rights and ban him from all activity in New York without notice and for an indefinite period of time based solely on unproven allegations of a minor infraction (an overage of an allowable medication) in another jurisdiction.”

Baffert filed suit against NYRA on June 14, nearly a month after the racing association notified the Hall of Fame trainer that he was temporarily banned from racing or stabling at NYRA tracks while the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission conducts its investigation into the post-race drug positive for Baffert-trained Medina Spirit, who crossed the finish line first in the May 1 Kentucky Derby. Baffert is seeking a temporary and permanent injunction against the ban.

As defendant in the case, NYRA filed a memorandum of law on June 30 in opposition to Baffert's motion for preliminary injunction. The Jockey Club filed a brief on that same date as amicus curiae, or friend of the court, claiming that its role as keeper of the Stud Book gives it a “unique interest in ensuring that when Thoroughbreds enter the breeding shed (where they determine the future of the breed through progeny), they do so with records uninfluenced by the effects of medication.”

Both those court filings struck the same note, countering Baffert's argument that he will suffer irreparable harm as a result of his ban from Belmont Park and the upcoming high-profile meeting at Saratoga.

In response, the July 7 memo from Baffert's attorneys argues: “There is no compensating for the missed opportunity to participate in prestigious races that define the success of a trainer's career and garner goodwill with clients. NYRA's argument that Baffert cannot prove irreparable harm because he can still race in other states is missing the mark. First, there is no meet more prestigious than Saratoga and the gravitas and economic benefit that come from New York racing cannot be overstated. (…) Baffert's runners in New York win almost three times the amount that they do outside New York. This demonstrates the importance of NYRA racing to Baffert despite the fact that he races in other jurisdictions.”

NYRA's June 30 memo contends that the decision to ban Baffert “was based on probable cause that plaintiff's actions warranted suspension and was necessary to protect the safety of the racehorses and their riders, and required to ensure the integrity of the sport.”

Baffert's attorneys insist that NYRA acting on behalf of the sport's integrity is a “false narrative.”

“The fact NYRA routinely allows onto its tracks trainers who have actually been found to have broken New York's rules of racing completely shatters that false narrative,” their July 7 memo states. “NYRA smears Baffert with allegations about other positive tests, without providing the critical context of those, including that they involved minor overages of permitted substances, none of which merited a suspension and some of which, Baffert was, for all practical purposes, vindicated. … It does not serve the 'integrity' of horse racing to suspend first and ask questions later.”

A hearing on the motion for injunctive relief is scheduled for July 12.

Read more at the Thoroughbred Daily News.

Additional stories about Baffert's Kentucky Derby positive and ensuing legal battles can be found here.

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