‘Protecting the Integrity of the Sport’: Bob Baffert Suspended from NYRA Tracks for a Year – Horse Racing News

Bob Baffert during the NYRA hearing process

Following the release of a hearing report by Judge O. Peter Sherwood in April, and in accordance with New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) hearing rules and procedures, a three-person hearing panel today issued a final ruling on the matter of Robert A. Baffert.

After a two-month review of the 50-page hearing report, the panel decided to suspend Mr. Baffert from racing or practice activity at all NYRA tracks for 365 calendar days, effective immediately.

The panel’s decision credits Mr. Baffert with 59 days served under the previous temporary suspension from NYRA as well as the 90-day suspension imposed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and mutually recognized by the New York State Gaming Commission. Accordingly, Mr. Baffert is barred from participating in any racing or practice activities at any NYRA track until January 25, 2023.

“This was an impartial and deliberative process that has resulted in a protracted suspension of the sport’s most prominent coach,” said Dave O’Rourke, NYRA President and CEO. “However, this is not just about Bob Baffert or any individual, it is about protecting the integrity of the sport here in New York. Today’s decision comes closer to that goal.”

The 14-page decision of the hearing panel can be found here.

As set forth in the NYRA Hearings Rules and Procedures, found here, the hearing panel’s decision is “final” and effective “immediately.” In addition, rule 16(f) states that “no administrative appeal may be brought within NYRA against the final decision of the panel.”

In September 2021, NYRA served Mr. Baffert with an indictment alleging that he engaged in conduct detrimental to the best interests of thoroughbred racing or potentially harmful to the health or safety of any horse or rider.

As set forth in the indictment, NYRA also charged that the conduct warranted the revocation or suspension of Baffert’s right to train horses, compete in races, or engage in race-related activities at any of NYRA’s properties, including Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.

NYRA has established hearing rules and procedures to provide a formalized mechanism for a defendant to respond to allegations and attend a hearing consistent with due process rights.

NYRA’s administrative hearing in Mr. Baffert’s matter began Monday, January 24th and ended Friday, January 28th. Judge Sherwood, a retired New York State Supreme Court Justice, acted as hearing commissioner to ensure the trial was conducted fairly and impartially in accordance with NYRA hearing rules and procedures.

Judge Sherwood’s hearing report can be found here.

Clark Brewster, an attorney for Baffert, issued the following statement in response to the ruling: “From reading the decision of the NYRA-selected panel, it is clear that they went to great lengths to explain the nonsensical and contradictory excesses of the Peter-Sherwood -Order to soften and generalize, but they still capitulated to the will of some NYRA board members, blindly driven by jealousy and self-interest, to destroy Bob.

Biographical information on the members of the Hearing Panel:

John J. Carusone, Jr., Esq.

As an attorney with the law firm of Carusone & Carusone of Saratoga Springs, New York, John Carusone has practiced law in the greater Saratoga Springs area for more than 40 years. Mr. Carusone has been appointed to the Saratoga Race Course Local Advisory Board (SLAB) by the City of Saratoga Springs. Legally authorized in 2008, the Advisory Board serves as a mechanism to foster productive and consistent dialogue between the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA), Saratoga County and the City of Saratoga Springs.

Mr. Carusone serves on the boards of directors of both Arrow Financial Corporation and Saratoga National Bank and Trust Company. He is a graduate of Hamilton College and Albany Law School.

Wilhelm Alempijevic

Will Alempijevic is the Executive Director of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA), which serves the interests of NYRA thoroughbred owners and trainers. NYTHA serves as New York State’s recognized representative for owners and trainers, working to protect the economic interests of all riders and gain public recognition of horse racing as a vital industry deserving of support, protection and preservation.

Mr. Alempijevic serves on the board of directors of the Backstretch Employee Service Team, the non-profit organization based in Belmont Park dedicated to supporting the health needs of NYRA’s backstretch community. He is a graduate of Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario with a degree in Economics with Financial Management.

Humberto Chavez

Rev. Humberto Chavez leads the New York Race Track Chaplaincy of America (RTCNY), the non-profit organization that serves the spiritual needs of the New York backstretch community through enrichment programs and non-denominational worship. Rev. Chavez was appointed RTCNY chaplain in 2003 and has since expanded his work and outreach. RTCNY recently broke ground on a new headquarters building on the Belmont Park site.

In addition to his work with RTCNY, Rev. Chavez is the senior pastor of Bridge Church in Malverne, NY, where he and his wife, Rev. Karen Chavez, previously began a now thriving Spanish-language ministry. In 2020, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) presented him with their Industry Service Award, given to the individual who has made exceptional contributions to the horse racing industry.

Rev. Chavez is the Executive Chairman of the Elmont Police Athletic League. He and his wife Karen live in Franklin Square with their three children.

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