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NYRA cuts Bob Baffert suspension to a year, meaning he’s eligible for Belmont Stakes

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In somewhat of a small victory, trainer Bob Baffert had his proposed two-year ban from racing in New York reduced to one year by a three-person panel appointed by the New York Racing Assn. Baffert can resume racing horses in the state on Jan. 26, meaning he is eligible to participate in next year’s Belmont Stakes.

Baffert also can run in the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore but is still barred from running at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. He was banned by Churchill Downs for two years after former Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a legal anti-inflammatory, but not legal on race day. Baffert can run at other Kentucky tracks, including Keeneland, home of this year’s Breeders’ Cup.

Baffert is currently serving a 90-day suspension by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for Medina Spirit’s positive test result and will return to training on July 3. The suspension is honored by all tracks, including those in Southern California.

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Craig Robertson, Baffert’s Kentucky-based attorney, said he had no comment at this time.

“This was an impartial and deliberative process that has resulted in a lengthy suspension of the sport’s most prominent trainer,” David O’Rourke, NYRA’s president and chief executive said. “However, this is not simply about Bob Baffert or any one individual but about protecting the integrity of the sport here in New York. [Thursday’s] decision advances that goal.”

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Baffert was given credit for 59 days hserved while under a temporary suspension earlier this year and the 90-day suspension he is currently serving.

O. Peter Sherwood, a retired New York Supreme Court judge, was the initial hearing officer who made a nonbinding recommendation of a two-year suspension. It took the panel two months to come up with this ruling. Baffert has not had any positive medication tests in New York. He generally sends a couple of horses to Saratoga’s summer meeting but is not a big player in New York racing.

In other Baffert legal news, his appeal with the KHRC to restore Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby win was moved from June 28 to Aug. 22. It’s expected that many of these legal cases will be decided outside state regulatory agencies and in the civil courts.

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