FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Lawyers for Hall of Fame coach Bob Baffert argued in a Kentucky court on Thursday that a 90-day suspension imposed by the state’s racing commission would essentially end to his career.
Baffert is asking a judge to delay the suspension for a failed post-race drug test by Medina Spirit that led to his disqualification as the winner of the Kentucky Derby last year.
Baffert’s attorneys argued that the suspension should not be imposed until he has had an opportunity to appear on appeal before the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. That hearing is scheduled for April 18. Baffert was not in the courtroom Thursday.
“If he is forced to serve his suspension now, he will never get those days back if he wins his appeal,” Baffert’s attorney Craig Robertson said Thursday. “We’re talking about 90 days that would run through the entire Triple Crown” of horse racing, which includes the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in May and June.
Robertson said the suspension would ban Baffert from racing anywhere and force him to dismantle his business.
Baffert is also suing Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby, in federal court to challenge a two-year suspension from the Louisville track.
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate said he would rule Monday on the request to delay Baffert’s suspension. Wingate said whatever she decides, she will definitely end up in the state Court of Appeals.
Lawyers for the horse racing commission on Thursday called Baffert’s conduct “unprecedented” and said he had committed four drug violations in a year, including two in Arkansas where Baffert paid a fine of $10,000.
“He made a series of ‘violations’,” attorney Jennifer Wolsing said. Baffert “is at high risk of reoffending.”
Baffert argued that the steroid in Medina Spirit came from a topical ointment, rather than an injection, which is prohibited. But horse racing officials said in court Thursday that, regardless of the source, the corticosteroid betamethasone was found in the horse’s system on race day, which is not allowed.
The horse racing commission denied a request by Baffert to delay his suspension earlier this month. The suspension was supposed to start on March 8, but that was delayed pending Judge Wingate’s decision.
In February, racing commission stewards suspended Baffert for 90 days with a $7,500 fine and disqualified Medina Spirit for having the corticosteroid betamethasone in her system last May.
Medina Spirit died in December of what Baffert said was a heart attack following a training session. An autopsy revealed no definitive cause of his death.