Stiff Penalty Recommended in Baffert Case; Lawyer Disputes Finding

An attorney for the California Horse Racing Board has recommended a six-month suspension and $10,000 fine for trainer Bob Baffert, who had a horse test positive for morphine last year. The positive urine sample came from Nautical Look, the winner of an allowance race at Hollywood Park May 3, 2000.

Deputy attorney general Judith Seligman recommended the penalty, which includes the maximum fine, because she said Baffert is responsible for the condition of his horses, and state law doesn't allow morphine to appear at any level in post-race tests.

Written closing arguments from Seligman and Neil Papiano, Baffert's attorney, are being reviewed by stewards Ingrid Fermin, Dave Samuel, and Tom Ward. It is unknown when the stewards will issue a final ruling. They could issue a suspension, fine, or both.

Papiano said the case should have been dismissed.

"The whole thing is strange," he said. "They found too little of something in the urine to accurately measure it, so they guessed at the amount. Then they won't confirm what it is they found because they threw the blood sample away. They said they threw it away because the blood was too expensive to test, but it costs them nothing to store it until the urine tests are completed."

Officials with Truesdail Laboratories, the CHRB's primary testing lab, testified during the eight-day hearing at Santa Anita Park in April that Nautical Look's blood sample was among a large number of samples randomly thrown out as a cost-saving measure last year.

If the blood had been tested, Papiano said, he is confident the morphine would have been considered a contamination. The amount of morphine reportedly in the urine sample was less than would be found if the horse ingested one seed from a poppy seed bagel, he said.

"What they found is the amount equal to one grain of sugar divided 5,000 times, if you could do that," Papiano said.
Seligman couldn't be reached for comment.

Baffert said the case is a joke.

"We showed how it could have happened by contamination," he said. "I don't bother myself with the case. I've just turned it over to Neil."