Horse Racing

The familiar argument at the hearing about Baffert suspending suspension

A hearing on a motion to grant Bob Baffert a 90-day adjournment by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) was held on Thursday, March 16 in Franklin County Circuit Court (King), with both parties repeat what are now familiar arguments about the original ruling.

Thursday’s trial was held after initial hearing scheduled for March 2 was postponed when the KHRC would hold a special meeting two days later to review and issue a ruling on Baffert’s request to stay. This meeting held on the scheduled date and the KHRC voted 10-0 to waive the penalties while Baffert and owner Amr Zedan appealed drug-positive rulings regarding Medina Spirit’s disqualification in GI Kentucky. Derby in 2021. These penalties include a 90-day suspension and a $7,500 fine for Baffert while Zedan was ordered to have his winnings in Medina Spirit’s wallet.

After the KHRC panel rejected Baffert’s appeal of his stay on March 4, the matter was taken to round court before judge Thomas Wingate, who gave no indication of his final decision after hearing on Thursday but said a ruling would be determined on Monday. , March 21.

Baffert’s attorney Craig Robertson was the coach’s only representative present in court on Thursday while Baffert’s colleague lawyer Clark Brewster appeared later in the hearing against Zoom.

As Robertson began his opening statement, Wingate requested clarification on the matter of the penalties that occurred in Arkansas in May 2020 when Gamine (Into Mischief) and Quack (Sightstown) tested positive for lidocaine. Initially, both horses were disqualified and Baffert was fined and suspended for 15 days, but the disqualification and suspension were subsequently overturned.

“What the data show is much more problematic with the managers’ initial findings,” explains Robertson, citing how a sample is supposed to be taken from Quack was incorrectly labeled a sample from gelding. “In the end, they overruled the manager’s verdict without being disqualified.”

In Robertson’s opening statement, he discussed the KHRC’s attempt to claim that Baffert has a history of problematic drug violations, but said that Baffert’s record of violations is on almost every coach. in U.S.A.

“Their story is untrue,” he said. “By any objective measure, Mr. Baffert has been a huge ambassador for horse racing.”

He went on to point out the importance of the 90-day suspension as the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) has confirmed that they will also respect the suspension set forth by the KHRC. Trainers suspended for 60 days or more will be barred from all CHRB facilities and have their stalls removed.

“It basically ends his career in the Hall of Fame,” says Robertson. “It makes no sense for us to end our careers on the Walk of Fame with a topical ointment. What’s even more absurd is that we end his career before he can appear in court.”

KHRC expects a full hearing on Baffert’s appeal on April 18order. Up to four days of proceedings are scheduled if needed.

“I am not asking you today to judge that Mr. Baffert won on the merits of this case. That day will come. What I ask is that he not be forced to serve his punishment now until his case is heard. If he is forced to serve his punishment now, he cannot get those days back if he later wins the appeal. It is not uncommon for manager judgments to be overturned by the KHRC itself or this court,” Robertson said, citing The case of Graham Motion 2015 where Motion appeals the suspension and fines imposed by KHRC. Both were later thrown out by Wingate.

Robertson’s arguments centered on the distinction between betamethasone valerate – found in Otomax topical ointment – and intra-articular betamethasone acetate injection. Test results obtained from the New York Equine Research and Experimental Laboratory confirmed the finding of betamethasone valerate in Medina Spirit’s system.

Robertson noted that while KHRC regulations state that a 14-day inactivity period is required for the use of intra-articular corticosteroids such as betamethasone acetate, he says no violation has occurred because there is no betamethasone injection. intra-articular as a corticosteroid. In addition, he said that KHRC regulations state that the presence of detectable concentrations of more than one corticosteroids would constitute an offence.

“They just banned injections of betamethasone acetate,” he said. “There is no prohibition or regulation on betamethasone valerate topical ointment and no standard limit of detection unless more than one corticosteroid is present. The KHRC may have assigned a limit of detection for a corticosteroid or they may have assigned a topical betamethasone. They did not. They are asking you to read things in the rules that simply do not exist. “

Jennifer Wolsing, KHRC’s general counsel, began her statement by saying, “There has been a lot of talk about the unprecedented nature of KHRC’s refusal to stay. That is our position and I would like to assert that Mr. Baffert’s conduct is also unprecedented and justifies the refusal to stay that we have before us today. “

Wolsing went on to explain how Baffert’s cumulative penalties are “literally off the charts,” how the suspension was justified given his high risk of recidivism, and how the suspension was justified. whose job it is only to protect the racers, the horses, the integrity of the race, and the public’s confidence in the race.

In response to Robertson’s comments about the overturned rulings in Arkansas, Wolsing pointed out that Baffert is still penalized for the positives from Quack and Gamine because the committee found that Baffert was “the absolute underwriter of the horse’s condition.” Because Baffert still had to fine both horses, the KHRC treated the incident as two separate offenses.

Judge Wingate asked Wolsing about the differences in topical and topical betamethasone use.

“[Regulations] expressly stated, ‘Unless expressly permitted in [in 810 KAR Chapter 9]While participating in the race, it is illegal for a horse to carry any drug that is unfamiliar to the horse. ‘”

She went on to state that betamethasone is not explicitly authorized, referring to the KHRC’s Drug Classification Schedule where betamethasone is listed as a Class C drug. She explained that because the KHRC does not distinguish the form of betamethasone, it therefore does not. points out that any form of betamethasone is considered a Class C violation. She also notes that a warning listed in the recall instructions says the drug used off-label could lead to test results. positive test.

“The source of betamethasone is pharmacologically unrelated to its effects on horses,” she said. “When betamethasone valerate is absorbed, the valerate is split and you have pure betamethasone in the horse’s system.”

When Wingate asked Wolsing about Robertson’s earlier views that KHRC was trying to remove Baffert from the business, Wolsing responded by saying that she did not understand that a 90-day suspension would bring Baffert out of business. She explained that he could transfer his horses to another trainer during that time, and said that the trainer could apply to rent the same barn space and that Baffert’s staff wouldn’t necessarily be fired.

Wolsing concludes, “At the end of the day, we have to see who is more likely to prevail. Our rules are very clear. Betamethasone, of any kind, is completely prohibited on race day… We have had unprecedented behavior and KHRC is fully allowed to refuse stay. If it is allowed, this is an appropriate case to refuse to stay. “

Robertson refuted several points from Wolsing’s statement.

Referring specifically to her claims about the drug, he said that she was basing the term “in short” that betamethasone is a foreign substance, but when looking at the regulations for betamethasone, the regulations There is no clear indication for intra-articular injection of betamethasone acetate but nothing has been said about topical administration.

“There is nothing in it that says betamethasone valerate is prohibited,” he said. “They could have claimed it, but they didn’t. They couldn’t punish this man – and force him out of business and end his career in the Hall of Fame – for something they didn’t include in their bylaws. “

Addressing the fact that Baffert paid a fine for the positives of Quack and Gamine at Oaklawn Park, Robertson said that administrators did not exceed the fine because of political pressure and that while Baffert could have appealed the fine and won, he does not consider the overturning. status and suspension is a win.

Regarding Wolsing’s view of Baffert transferring his horse to another trainer should he be forced to serve a suspension, Robertson pointed out that such a transfer would have to be done by the other trainer and the owner. The owners of the horses agree, and the other trainer will also have to agree to take on Baffert’s staff.

“It’s not nearly as simple as Miss Wolsing tried to draw it,” he noted.

KHRC CEO Marc Guilfoil was called to witness the denial of Baffert’s request to stay.

When Wolsing asked about his decision, he replied that he had given it a lot of thought and cited the KHRC’s mission statement to maintain integrity and honesty in horse racing. He said he was reflecting on Baffert’s announcement in November 2020, where he made a number of statements including that he would hire Hagyard Equestrian Health Institute physician Michael Hore to “add another an extra layer of protection to ensure the health of the horses in my care and compliance. ” Guilfoil said that to the best of his knowledge, Baffert had failed to fulfill the promises made in the public statement.

“Trainer 101 is about looking at the drug you’re taking and seeing if there are any banned substances,” Guilfoil said, then referencing how Baffert’s medical violations over a one-year time frame, on average one over 88 starts.

When Wolsing asked Guilfoil how Baffert’s case compares to others he’s worked with in the past, Guilfoil said, “The word unprecedented has been thrown around quite a bit and I agree it’s unprecedented. , and two [violations] in Kentucky are two races debuting in the state of Kentucky. “

When Robertson had a chance to question Guilfoil, he asked Guilfoil if the chief executive could conclude, without question, that he knew Baffert had not attempted to fulfill the promises made in the public statement, but rather In the end Guilfoil said he couldn’t.

Attorney Clark Brewster, who represents both Zedan Racing Stable and Baffert, also released a statement via Zoom. He also emphasized the distinction between topical and intra-articular betamethasone, and pointed out that before Medina Spirit tested positive for the drug, Baffert had only tested positive once in his 29 years of racing in Kentucky. He ended by saying that he was confident that Baffert would eventually be vindicated.

In order for Wingate to allow Baffert to stay, the judge must conclude that Baffert’s stables would have been irreparably damaged without the stay and must also determine that the trainer’s appeal could lead to a the ruling was reasonably overturned on April 18.order hearing.

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