The Lance Armstrong of Thoroughbred trainers will finally have his day in court.
The official hearing for Bob Baffert’s potential suspension from New York Racing Association tracks will begin on January 24th. That date was decided today during the initial meeting between NYRA and Baffert’s attorneys.
Today’s meeting was presided over by O. Peter Sherwood, the retired New York State Supreme Court justice serving as a NYRA-appointed hearing officer.
NYRA issued a statement of charges against Baffert and fellow trainer Marcus Vitali on September 10th, and initially scheduled a hearing for Baffert to begin on September 27th. However, that hearing was delayed until October 11th as Baffert’s attorney requested additional time.
Baffert did not participate in todays meeting, because it was convened only to schedule future dates and deadlines.
NYRA had notified Baffert ahead of the Belmont Stakes that it was suspending his ability to enter horses in races or have stall space at its racetracks due to his recent history of medication violations (five over a one-year period), the conflicting statements he provided to media around the MEDINA SPIRIT scandal, and Churchill Downs‘ suspension of the trainer.
Judge Carol Bagley Amon of the Eastern District of New York determined that NYRA’s suspension of Baffert should not have taken place without some sort of hearing allowing him to address the organization’s accusations against him.
Even though NYRA was asserting its private property rights in the case, Amon said the organization is closely entwined enough with the state that its suspension of Baffert constituted a state action, thereby requiring due process.
The upcoming hearing process, (as laid out by NYRA in it’s official statement), is not expected to be brief. The hearing may last several days, and Sherwood is not required to issue his post-hearing report with recommendations within a specific period of time.
Once that report has been issued, a panel will review it and issue a final decision within 10 days.
The Daily Racing Blog feels that Baffert is wasting a lot of time, money and legal resources in an effort to try and clear his name. He hates coming east, and seldom runs his horses at NYRA tracks. This is just another example of his narcissistic hubris- welcome to Bob’s World. His reputation proceeds him and no amount of court-room wrangling can remove its tarnish.