Updated on 09/15/2011 12:26PM

Baffert suspended for 60 days


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Trainer , who won two legs of this year's Triple Crown with Point Given, was given a 60-day suspension on Sunday by California Horse Racing Board stewards after one of his starters tested positive for a trace level of morphine at Hollywood Park in May 2000.

Baffert and his attorney, Neil Papiano, indicated they plan to appeal the suspension, which is set for June 25 through Aug. 23.

Stewards Ingrid Fermin, David Samuel and Tom Ward, who issued the decision, heard eight days of testimony on the case at Santa Anita in April. They issued no explanation of their decision on Sunday, but cited two CHRB rules stating that morphine is a class 1 drug not permitted for use in racehorses and that Baffert was responsible for the condition of his starters.

A six-page statement is expected to be released on Wednesday.

An appeal from Baffert will result in a lengthy delay before a final ruling is reached. Initially, the case will be assigned to an administrative law judge, who will hear testimony before making a recommendation to the CHRB. If the board ruled against Baffert, Papiano indicated that Baffert would turn to the courts for further appeals.

The process could take years. A similar case, involving a clenbuterol positive found in the post-race tests taken from Free House following the 1998 Bel Air Handicap, is still under appeal.

In addition, Papiano indicated that Baffert will file a Federal civil suit against the CHRB, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated when the blood sample taken from Nautical Look following her win in an allowance race on May 3, 2000 was discarded. Urine taken from the filly showed the presence of morphine in a post-race test, and a laboratory in Texas confirmed the findings of the first urine test.

"Federal courts say if you throw away any confirmation tests, you take away a person's rights," Papiano said on Sunday. "They can't throw away your confirming evidence and then hold you liable for it."

The blood sample taken from Nautical Look was part of an unknown number of samples randomly discarded last year by Truesdail Laboratories on instruction from the CHRB as a cost-saving measure.

Papiano said during the hearing that Baffert requested the blood sample be used to check for the presence of morphine. Judith Seligman, a deputy attorney general who prosecuted the case on behalf of the CHRB, argued in April that the blood test was unnecessary because the split sample of urine confirmed the presence of morphine.

Throughout the case, Papiano argued that the amount found in the positive urine test - 73 nanograms - was too small to have an affect on Nautical Look's performance. Seligman disputed that argument, stating the amount of morphine was irrelevant because the state does not permit morphine to appear in post-race tests at any level.