The New York Racing Association (NYRA) has suspended Bob Baffert, barring his horses from the Belmont Stakes as well as any event at Belmont Park or Saratoga Race Course this summer.
The NYRA said in a statement that the suspension is simply not a reaction to Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit testing positive for betamethasone earlier this month. Rather, the decision takes “into account the fact that other horses trained by Mr. Baffert have failed drug tests in the recent past, resulting in the assessment of penalties against him by thoroughbred racing regulators in Kentucky, California, and Arkansas.”
“In order to maintain a successful thoroughbred racing industry in New York, NYRA must protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public and racing participants,” NYRA President Dave O’Rourke said in a statement. “That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of thoroughbred racing.”
The Hall of Fame trainer’s horses have completed the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes twice in the last six years, but Medina Spirit’s loss at the Preakness last weekend ended Baffert’s chances at another Triple Crown.
Medina Spirit passed three rounds of blood sample testing ahead of the Preakness, where it finished third behind Rombauer and Midnight Bourbon. Churchill Downs also suspended Baffert after Medina Spirit tested positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone, the fifth positive drug test by a Baffert horse in the last 14 months.
Baffert later said the source of the positive test may have come from an antifungal ointment called Otomax used to treat a rash prior to the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs is currently waiting on a split sample—confirmation of the positive test would disqualify the horse and crown runner-up Mandaloun as the winner.
The NYRA also said that it will await those results before making a final determination on Baffert’s temporary suspension.
More Horse Racing Coverage: