Trainer Bob Baffert.

Trainer Bob Baffert.

CHRB Loses Another Round in Case Against Baffert

A Los Angeles federal district court judge dismissed the California Horse Racing Board's morphine case against trainer Bob Baffert April 15. Judge Dickran Tevrizian's ruling came in the form of a permanent injunction prohibiting the CHRB from pursuing charges against Baffert.

In addition, Judge Tevrizian ruled that Baffert could apply to recover attorney's fees and costs from the racing board. Baffert's attorney, Neil Papiano, said he would do so as soon as he received a copy of the decision. "We are very, very pleased with the decision," said Papiano. "It shows that the unilateral action of the CHRB in destroying two blood samples without notification prohibited Baffert from putting on a defense. There is no excuse why two separate blood samples in two different cities were thrown away."

CHRB vice-chairman Roger Licht said the board plans to appeal the ruling to the U.S. District Court of Appeals. "It's a long process--whomever loses in the Court of Appeals can go to the California Supreme Court," Licht said. "Once we appeal, we will also seek a stay on the court costs and attorney fees."

The CHRB's case against Baffert stems from a post-race urine sample taken from Nautical Look, a Baffert trainee who won an allowance race at Hollywood Park May 3, 2000. Truesdail Laboratory found that the horse's urine sample contained morphine, a finding that was confirmed by a split sample sent to the Texas Veterinary Medical Laboratory. The amount found -- 73 nanograms/milliliter -- is infinitesimal, and below subsequent guidelines proposed by some nationwide industry organizations.

Truesdail subsequently threw away Nautical Look's blood sample, and a split blood sample was also thrown away by a CHRB veterinarian in Sacramento. Truesdail cited a letter from CHRB assistant executive director Roy Minami telling the laboratory to randomly test two-thirds of all blood samples it received and toss away the remaining one-third.

Judge Tevrizian issued a preliminary injunction against the CHRB last November prohibiting them from proceeding with its case against Baffert. The judge cited the pharmacologically insignificant amount of morphine found as well as "regulation and law (that) required the CHRB to perform confirming tests of the blood samples."

A morphine case against trainer Jesse Mendoza from the same time period was thrown out by a board of stewards, and two cases from the same time against conditioner Bobby Frankel "will be proceeded with," according to Licht.