Horse racing-Medina Spirit trainer Bob Baffert sues over New York racing ban

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Bob Baffert, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, stands near the track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. April 28, 2021. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston/File Photo

NEW YORK, June 14 (Reuters) - Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert on Monday sued New York horse racing officials for suspending him from running horses at state racetracks, following a positive drug test for Baffert-trained Medina Spirit after it won the Kentucky Derby.

Baffert, a seven-time Kentucky Derby winner and one of the sport's best-known figures, said the New York Racing Association (NYRA) unconstitutionally usurped the authority of the state's gaming commission by taking away his trainer's license indefinitely.

He said a prolonged suspension from racing horses in New York or stabling them at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course could cause him to lose horses worth tens of millions of dollars to other trainers.

"This will effectively put me out of business in the State of New York," Baffert said in a filing in the federal court in Brooklyn.

NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna said the organization will "vigorously defend" the May 17 suspension.

Baffert wants an injunction to lift the suspension, which kept Medina Spirit out of the June 5 Belmont Stakes, plus damages. His lawyer, Craig Robertson, declined to comment.

Medina Spirit faces possible disqualification as the Derby winner on May 1 after two tests showed the presence of the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone at a prohibited level. read more

Baffert has said he treated the horse with the anti-fungal ointment Otomax and had not known it contained betamethasone, a corticosteroid. He chose the lab to perform the second test.

Following that test, Churchill Downs suspended Baffert for two years, including the Derby in 2022 and 2023.

Though five of Baffert's horses recently failed drug tests in a little over one year, Baffert said he has had no rules violations in more than 30 years of racing in New York.

Baffert, 68, has trained horses for 46 years, winning the Triple Crown - the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes - with American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018.

Only one horse - Dancer's Image in 1968 - has been disqualified as Kentucky Derby winner in the race's 147-year history because of a failed drug test.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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