By Dan Ross
Earlier this week, a Kentucky judge denied trainer Bob Baffert's attempts to stay a 90-day suspension related to Medina Spirit's betamethasone-positive disqualification from the 2021 GI Kentucky Derby by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC).
While the appeals process plays out, the question now is: What will happen to the nearly 100-horses in Baffert's California-based stable if the suspension goes into effect on April 4.
As the TDN previously reported, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) will honor the 90-day suspension metered down to Baffert through a system of reciprocity between jurisdictions.
That honor system is laid out in CHRB rule 1484: “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.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the CHRB elaborated further on the specifics of any such suspension.
Citing CHRB rule 1843.3 which deals with disciplinary actions stemming from medication violations, licensed trainers suspended for 60 days or more shall be banned from all CHRB licensed facilities.
“In addition, during the period of suspension, such trainer shall forfeit all assigned stall space and shall remove from the inclosures all signage, colors, advertisements, training-related equipment, tack, office equipment, and any other property,” the rule states.
The CHRB also prohibits a trainer suspended for more than 30-days from transferring the horses to any licensed family member, or to any other licensee employed by the suspended licensee within the previous year.
“'Licensed family members' means any person who holds an occupational license issued by the CHRB and who is related to the suspended licensee, or the licensee whose license is revoked, by blood, or by marriage or domestic partnership, or who is related by blood to the spouse or domestic partner of such licensee,” the rule adds.
As written, the rules do not preclude a licensed trainer with no immediate ties to Baffert from assuming the running of his stable in whole or in part, including employees, should the relevant owners in Baffert's barn agree to such a replacement, explained an expert on these matters who asked to remain anonymous.
There would, however, be a set of strict stipulations governing such a scenario, the expert explained.
Baffert would not be allowed to directly contact that trainer for the period of the suspension, for example. And all financial duties of the day-to-day running of the barn—such as payroll and other routine stable costs—would also be the replacement trainer's sole responsibility.
The KHRC has yet to weigh in officially on this particular matter. In its original ruling, 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 the KHRC for clarification on who the Kentucky stewards deem acceptable but has not yet received a response.