The fallout from the 2021 Kentucky Derby, which was marred by a failed post-race drug test by winning horse Medina Spirit, has continued well into the summer for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. And while there is still a ways to go for him to defend his honor in the horse racing ranks, his good standing in New York State racing circles has been reinstated at the legal level.
According to the Associated Press, a New York federal judge overturned Bob Baffert's suspension by the New York Racing Association on Wednesday, ruling that the group had acted unconstitutionally in failing to allow Baffert to adequately respond to allegations against him following Medina Spirit's failed drug test.
A written ruling by Brooklyn judge Caorl Bagley Amon cited the NYRA's failure to hold a post-suspension hearing for Baffert.
Baffert had filed a lawsuit in June seeking to get his suspension lifted, which barred him from entering horses at the three tracks -- Belmont Park, Aqueduct, and Saratoga Race Course -- operated by the NYRA. Baffert will now be able to enter horses at Saratoga, which opens for competition on July 16.
"Following the Kentucky Derby, there was an improper rush to judgment and Mr. Baffert has been treated unfairly," W. Craig Robertson III, Baffert's attorney, 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,"
Baffert's good standing in horse racing had been altered by the outcome of the Kentucky Derby, where Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test by testing positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone. In May, Baffert claimed that the failed drug test was the result of an anti-fungal ointment that had been used to treat the horse's dermatitis.
While the NYRA argued that the swiftness of Baffert's suspension was necessary because of the impending Belmont Stakes and the public's dependence on the organization to protect the integrity of its races, Amon responded by stating in writing that "the public has no interest in having the 'integrity of the sport' enforced by unconstitutional means."
Amon concluded that Baffert had established a likelihood that he would prove his suspension violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects the rights of individuals from interference by the state.