California to Honor Either Suspension or Stay of KY Baffert Ruling

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Bob Baffert at Santa Anita | Benoit

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As had been anticipated, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) will honor the 90-day suspension meted down to trainer Bob Baffert by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) if the trainer's legal efforts to block the suspension aren't successful in the interim, confirmed a CHRB spokesperson Saturday morning.

Likewise, the CHRB will reciprocate any stay on the KHRC's ruling “if granted by a court,” the spokesperson confirmed in an email.

Earlier this month, the KHRC handed Baffert a 90-day suspension and a $7,500 fine after Medina Spirit (Protonico) tested positive for an elevated amount of betamethasone, a Class C anti-inflammatory corticosteroid, after last year's GI Kentucky Derby.

If enforced, the suspension will run March 8 through June 5.

On Friday, the KHRC denied Baffert's request for a stay on the suspension. In the immediate aftermath of that decision, Baffert's legal team stated that they would seek legal intervention in court.

“Denial of the stay is consistent with arbitrary and capricious manner in which the stewards have ignored the facts and law in this manner,” said Baffert attorney, Clark Brewster. “Fortunately, we will soon procedurally eclipse the biased actors and have the ear of adjudicators that adhere to the rule of law instead of man.”

The basis of the CHRB's actions is rule 1484, pertaining to “Evidence of Unfitness for License.”

The rule 1484 states: “If any applicant for a license or any licensee is under suspension, set down, ruled off, excluded from the inclosure, or otherwise barred from any racing occupation or activity requiring a license, it is prima facie evidence that he or she is unfit to be granted a license or unfit to hold a license or participate in racing in this State as a licensee during the term of any suspension or exclusion from racing imposed by any competent racing jurisdiction.”

When it comes to what will happen to the horses in Baffert's care for the duration of the 90-day suspension, the KHRC ruling states that, “Entry of all horses owned or trained by Mr. Baffert is denied pending transfer to persons acceptable to the stewards.”

The TDN emailed and texted Marc Guilfoil, the executive director of the KHRC, for clarification on who the Kentucky stewards deem acceptable, and whether that includes Baffert's assistants, but hasn't yet received a response.

The relevant rules in Kentucky appear unclear on the specifics of the horse transfer process in this particular scenario.

The TDN also asked the CHRB for clarification on what would happen to the horses in Baffert's care in California if the stay is denied in court. “We are currently working through the legal analysis with respect to whether reciprocation requires enforcement of the terms of suspension under California rules or Kentucky rules,” the CHRB spokesperson wrote, in response.

The CHRB's spokesperson did, however, highlight language in the CHRB's rules guiding disciplinary actions in cases where licenses are revoked through medication violations.

The CHRB prohibits a trainer whose license is revoked because of a medication violation from being able to benefit financially through the period of their suspension.

“This includes, but is not limited to, ensuring that horses are not transferred to licensed family members or to any other licensee who has been an employee of the licensee whose license is revoked within the previous year,” the rules state.

Furthermore, trainers suspended 60 days or more are banned from all CHRB premises, for example, and must forfeit their stalls and remove from their barn areas all “signage, colors, advertisements, training-related equipment, tack, office equipment, and any other property.”

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