Thoroughbred race horse trainer Bob Baffert's saga took a huge step Friday, as the New York Racing Association charged him with detrimental conduct. A Sept. 27 video hearing will give Baffert, a two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer, his chance to refute the charges.
If the charges hold, Baffert's rights to train horses or enter races at the Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course would be either suspended or revoked.
"NYRA has a responsibility to protect the integrity of the sport of thoroughbred racing," NYRA President and CEO Dave O'Rourke said in a statement. "We are determined to ensure the actions taken in furtherance of that goal comport with the requirements of due process, which is what the hearing rules and procedures established by NYRA provide."
The drama surrounding Baffert began in May when his horse, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after winning the Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit's post-race sample included double Kentucky racing's legally-allowed amount of steroid betamethasone. Baffert claimed the results were skewed because he treated Medina Spirit with an anti-fungal ointment containing that steroid. He even claimed Medina Spirit was a victim of "cancel culture."
Churchill Downs and the NYRA subsequently suspended Baffert. Baffert then sued the NYRA to get his suspension lifted, claiming he didn't have an opportunity to respond to the allegations. The New York federal judge presiding on the case agreed with Baffert and nullified the NYRA's suspension.
The NYRA announced retired New York State Supreme Court Justice O. Peter Sherwood will serve as the hearing officer in the Baffert case.
Churchill Downs' two-year suspension on Baffert is still in effect, but the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission hasn't rendered a final verdict on the Medina Spirit investigation yet.