A Jan. 24, 2022, start date for the hearing process to determine whether the New York Racing Association (NYRA) can exclude trainer Bob Baffert from racing at its three tracks was mutually agreed upon by the two parties during a Monday videoconference.
A NYRA spokesperson confirmed to TDN that the schedule was established during the Oct. 11 conference by hearing officer O. Peter Sherwood.
Baffert must answer to a three-count complaint filed against him by NYRA in the form of a “statement of charges.” Those three counts correspond to Baffert's alleged conduct that is or has been “detrimental” to three entities: 1) “the best interests of racing”; 2) “the health and safety of horses and jockeys”; 3) “NYRA business operations.”
NYRA is already defending itself in a federal lawsuit initiated by the Hall of Fame trainer with the well-publicized history of equine drug positives over whether or not NYRA violated Baffert's constitutional rights by trying to ban him outright without any type of hearing back on May 17.
On July 14, the United States District Court (Eastern District of New York) granted Baffert a preliminary injunction that allowed him to race at New York's top-tier tracks pending the resolution of his overall case.
While that ruling allowed Baffert to start horses at Saratoga Race Course, Belmont Park and Aqueduct Racetrack, NYRA additionally took the judge's order to mean the association could move forward with drafting a new set of procedures for holding hearings that could suspend licensees who engage in injurious conduct.
After those rules were made public, NYRA, on Sept. 10, wrote a letter summoning Baffert to appear at just such a hearing, presenting him with the statement of charges.
On Sept. 22, Baffert filed a motion asking a federal judge to hold NYRA in civil contempt for trying to schedule any sort of hearing that could once again bar him from participating at NYRA's tracks. He claimed NYRA's move to initiate that sort of hearing was in violation of the preliminary injunction.
But on Oct. 5, a federal judge dismissed Baffert's “contempt” allegations, underscoring that NYRA could, in fact, move forward with its newly created hearing process because it was entirely separate from NYRA's original May 17 attempt at banishing Baffert.