03/24/2005 1:00AM

California board ends Baffert case


SAN MATEO, Calif. - The California Horse Racing Board on Thursday dismissed a longstanding morphine charge against trainer Bob Baffert. The ruling came in an executive session before the board's scheduled meeting at Bay Meadows.

The case dated back to May 2000, when the Baffert-trained Nautical Look tested positive for morphine.

The racing board adopted the recommendation of an administrative law judge, Timothy S. Thomas, who heard an appeal by Baffert in January.

The recommendation by Thomas said that the 73 nanograms of morphine found in the horse was "pharmacologically insignificant" and also that the amount could have been accounted to "environmental contamination."

The case made its way as far as the federal 9th District Court of Appeals before being returned to state court and Thomas's hearing in January.

Baffert was originally suspended for 60 days before he appealed the decision.

At the regular meeting, the board:

* Approved the recommendation of the board's race dates committee to allow year-round harness racing for 2005-2006 at Cal Expo in Sacramento. The decision means a proposal to run a four-month harness meet at Fairplex in Pomona is dead. It also means that another racetrack will pick up the dates for the State Fair mixed meeting that traditionally had been held at Cal Expo in late summer.

* Began the process of barring horses claimed in California from competing in another state, except for in stakes races, for 60 days following the close of the meet in which they were claimed. The rule would consider all the fairs as one meet.

* Approved the recommendation of board's Medication Committee to use exclusively the Maddy Laboratory at the University of California at Davis as the state's official drug testing facility for the 2005-2006 fiscal year.

* Approved a motion to select a firm to conduct a forensic audit on the Jockeys' Guild and the California Jockeys Health and Welfare Fund.

* Heard from veterinarian Dr. Rick Arthur about results of testing for alkalizing agents. Arthur said that less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the 6,099 horses racing in the state since the opening of the Santa Anita meeting Dec. 26 have tested positive for alkalizing agents.