Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate denied Bob Baffert a stay pending appeal over 90 day suspension by the KHRC over Medina Spirit Kentucky Derby positive test
Statement from attorney Clark Brewster on the ruling today denying the stay
The stay only pertains to the KHRC suspension and not the Churchill Downs two year ban
After a hearing last week in Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate issued his decision today. Those proceedings were held only to address whether KHRC executive director Marc Guilfoil was justified when he denied Baffert a stay and required the suspension begin as scheduled this month. The suspension was agreed by the parties to be held in abeyance while the legal arguments about the stay are argued and decided. The hearing was not for Judge Wingate to rule on the Baffert and Zedan Stables appeal of the Medina Spirit disqualification, the penalties accessed, or the two year Churchill Downs ban. Those matters will be litigated separately. The stay is significant to Baffert as a CHRB rule exists that would force the trainer to literally disband his stable, forfeit his stalls, remove all signage, and move all horses to someone who has not worked for or with him.
KHRC Counsel Jennifer Wolsing argued Baffert’s career would not be over should the stay not be granted as he could move his horses to an unaffiliated trainer who would “likely” take the employees with them. She admitted there were no parallel cases where the KHRC did not allow a stay pending the appeal process. She cited the jockey Robbie Albarado case where he was charged with domestic violence and denied a stay.
Trainer Otabek Umarov was suspended ten years after refusing to present a horse for out-of-competition testing and the KHRC denied that stay. That denial was appealed to the circuit court. No ruling was made as Umarov took a five-year suspension to settle the matter.
Wolsing also sited the case of trainer Carlos Lopez. He had four Class B and C violations in 2014 and 2015 and was given a 150-day suspension. Lopez did not appeal. The KHRC did not have to determine whether or not to grant a stay and the case never wound up in Circuit Court as the Baffert case has.
Another point of contention was the Baffert Arkansas positive tests on Charlatan and Gamine. The KHRC felt they should count against Baffert even though the commission voted to restore the two horses to their original finish positions and reverse the stewards’ decision to suspend Baffert. Baffert attorney Craig Robertson felt they should not count or come into play. We note the fines levied to Baffert were not reversed, but that would not be unusual in cases like that.
Ultimately Judge Wingate ruled against Baffert. Stays are generally granted. Not allowing a stay while the appeal process plays out renders the appeal process moot. It is akin to serving the penalty prior to conviction. Judge Wingate gave the parties 10 days to appeal his decision. The next date in the KHRC process is set for April 18th. The hearing officer will have 60 days to issue a decision. The hearing officer will be someone appointed by the KHRC and will be conducting the hearing on the behalf of the KHRC. Any decision by that hearing officer may be appealed to Franklin Circuit Court, and can wind up in front of Judge Wingate. The Judge may recuse himself from that case due to his involvement in this part of the proceeding.
Details regarding the ruling will be updated. The enforcement of the stay won’t be enforced until April 4th, 2022 to allow time to seek emergency relief with the Kentucky Court of appeals.
Statement from Bob Baffert attorney Clark Brewster:
“We are disappointed with the decision of the Franklin Circuit Court denying a stay of the Stewards Rulings. Given the importance of the matter, we intend to immediately appeal to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.”
The two year Churchill Downs ban will continue to be litigated and is a separate case from this one. The sad saga of Medina Spirit is likely to continue past this year’s Run for the Roses on the First Saturday in May. Whether any Bob Baffert horses will be there remains to be seen. As of today both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are restricted to three year old colts, geldings, and fillies not trained by Bob Baffert and his horses are not being awarded points by Churchill Downs required to run in those races. This Churchill Downs implemented rule, which only applies to Bob Baffert is not reciprocal. A KHRC suspension would be reciprocal.
Photo: Medina Spirit finishes first in the Kentucky Derby, Coady Photography