Attorneys for embattled trainer Bob Baffert have filed a letter with U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon, notifying the court they intend to file a motion to hold NYRA in contempt and stay the racing organization’s planned hearings.
NYRA had temporarily banned Baffert ahead of this year’s Belmont Stakes, citing his recent history of medication violations and conflicting public statements around the betamethasone overage in Medina Spirit, the reigning Kentucky Derby winner. The organization informed Baffert of its decision in May, triggering a civil suit from Baffert in the Eastern District of New York. Baffert won a motion for preliminary injunction against the racing organization after Amon ruled in July that NYRA could not rule him off without a hearing allowing him to address the organization’s accusations against him.
Read more about that decision here.
On Sept. 10, NYRA released a statement of charges against Baffert and fellow trainer Marcus Vitali, along with dates for preliminary hearings to deal with scheduling and logistics for formal hearings into whether they should be denied privileges at the organization’s tracks. Those preliminary hearing dates had been scheduled for next week. Baffert’s preliminary hearing has since been pushed back to Oct. 11 — a date which all parties have agreed to, according to NYRA.
In a letter filed on Baffert’s behalf, attorney Craig Robertson claims that NYRA’s announcement it intended to proceed with a hearing is in “direct contravention” of the court’s order, since the organization did not appeal the judge’s ruling on the motion for preliminary injunction. NYRA’s list of charges against Baffert released two weeks ago is nearly identical to the reasons it gave for banning him earlier this year.
“The only thing different is that it appears that NYRA has concocted some procedures — apparently just for this case — in an attempt to retroactively install legitimacy to its blatantly unlawful actions,” Robertson wrote.
Further, Robertson said “The Court made it clear to NYRA in oral argument that it was ‘too late’ to try to give Baffert an after-the-fact hearing to fix its errors … NYRA cannot turn around and attempt to reissue the same suspension based on the same factual allegations — as it has explicitly stated it aims to do — when this Court has enjoined that very conduct.
“There is nothing new which has transpired since NYRA was enjoined. No new facts, no new allegations. If anything, the facts have moved more solidly in Baffert’s favor and toward maintaining the status quo, as Baffert has raced several horses at the recent Saratoga meet without incident.”
NYRA issued the following statement via a spokesman soon after news broke of the coming filing:
“Contrary to the assertion filed in court today, Mr. Baffert is not currently under suspension at any NYRA racetrack. In fact, Mr. Baffert is free to stable horses and enter races at all NYRA facilities, just as he has been for the past two months,” said Pat McKenna, senior director of communications for NYRA.
“NYRA is not seeking to ‘enforce’ the May 17, 2021 letter temporarily suspending him. That letter is no longer in effect and NYRA does not now or in the future intend to enforce or otherwise invoke that letter as the basis for any action taken against Mr. Baffert. The current NYRA hearing proceeding was independently commenced pursuant to NYRA’s common law and regulatory authority to exclude licensees, subject to the requirements of due process, and in full compliance with the U.S. District Court’s order and memorandum, dated July 14, 2021, in Bob Baffert v. The New York Racing Association, Inc.”
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