Attorneys in the hearing of NYRA vs. Bob Baffert made their opening statements Monday, and they came out swinging.
One side claimed NYRA Board members had a vendetta against Baffert while the other contended that the Hall of Fame trainer was responsible for a “rampage of doping violations” and is deserving of a temporary suspension.
The hearing, expected to last from three to five days, will determine whether or not NYRA’s attempts to suspend Baffert over a rash of positive medication violations, including one in the 2021 GI Kentucky Derby, should be allowed.
Representing NYRA, attorney Hank Greenberg spoke first and zeroed in on the six medication violations Baffert accrued from July 27, 2019 through May 1st, 2021, the date of last year’s Derby, arguing that so many violations in such a short period of time was unprecedented.
“In the modern history of Thoroughbred racing, we can’t find anyone who can recall anything like this by a prominent trainer,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg said that Baffert “took a wrecking ball over a two-year period to the integrity of the sport that was so good to him.”
He paid particular attention to Baffert’s violations in the Derby, the GI Kentucky Oaks and the GI Arkansas Derby.
“In 2021 and 2020, the only Triple Crown he is responsible for is destroying three Grade I races,” Greenberg said.
“He gets on the Dan Patrick Show, he’s on SportsCenter, he’s on Fox and his attacks on everyone continue,” Greenberg said. “He says he doesn’t believe in conspiracy theories and then he begins to float one. The damage that was done to Thoroughbred racing on these two days (Derby day and the following Sunday) was incalculable.”
Greenberg went on to say that a lengthy suspension was in order so that, “NYRA can protect racing, protect the horse, protect the jockeys and protect itself.”
Representing Baffert, attorney Craig Robertson argued that Baffert’s violations were not of a serious nature and that using terms like “doping” when it comes to Baffert were inaccurate and unfair.
“I suspect that you are going to hear a lot of inflammatory words from NYRA,” Robertson said. “You’re going to hear the words ‘doping’ and ‘illegal substances’ and ‘performance-enhancing.’ Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Why are we here? The short answer is we shouldn’t be here,” he said. “The long answer is the only reason we are here is that there are a handful of NYRA board members that can answer that question. They have some personal vendetta against Mr. Baffert. Do they not like him?
Only they can answer that question. Despite the fact they want to ruin this Hall of Famer’s career, we asked them to come here to appear, to testify, to tell us why they are doing this to Mr. Baffert. They refused to show up. It’s a sad day in horse racing and a sad day when they are trying to punish this good man.”
Calling Baffert, “one of the most accomplished and respected individuals in all of racing,” Robertson asked Sherwood to decide “enough is enough” and prohibit NYRA from suspending the trainer.
No love lost here folks. Stay tuned.