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Legal road ahead for Bob Baffert could be long and expensive

Published: May. 12, 2021 at 11:08 PM EDT
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Equine lawyer Joel Turner
Equine lawyer Joel Turner(WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Hall of Fame thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert’s best chance of salvaging a win in Kentucky Derby 147 is to prove the previous blood tests were wrong when they detected the steroid betamethasone in Derby winner Medina Spirit.

Long-time equine lawyer Joel Turner said that is not likely to happen.

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“I would expect the split sample to be confirmed, about 99% of split samples are confirmed,” Turner said.

There’s no legal “wiggle room” when it comes to betamethasone.

“The rules are very clear,” Turner said. “In Kentucky, even for a first offense, it’s mandatory disqualification and re-distribution of the purse.”

Turner has defended scores of clients challenging horseracing regulators with some cases going to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

At his Oldham County farm where he takes in retired thoroughbreds, Turner described Baffert at a disadvantage because of recent multiple medication violations in horses he has trained.

“And that’s frowned upon for obvious reasons that it suggests to the public that racing is not doing a good job protecting the outcome of races,” Turner said as he described an arduous and risky road ahead for Baffert.

Baffert will first plead his case before racing stewards. If he fails to stop Medina Spirit’s disqualification, he could see a fine and 60-day suspension. He could then appeal to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) where, if he loses again, the penalty could get worse.

“They have a great deal of latitude and they could fine up to $50,000,” Turner said, “and deny access to the grounds that are under the jurisdiction of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for an unlimited period of time.”

Such a finding could be a career-ender for the hall of fame trainer.

Baffert’s only legal recourse would then be to take the KHRC to court where he could try to convince a judge the rules regarding betamethasone and the way they are applied are unconstitutional.

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