The Arkansas Racing Commission announced a 15-day suspension for two-time Triple Crown-winning horse trainer Bob Baffert. Two of his horses, Charlatan and Gamine, tested positive for a banned substance. Both horses tested positive for lidocaine in two rounds of testing after winning races in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
According to ESPN, Baffert plans to appeal the suspension on the grounds that this was "innocent contamination." The trainer told the Commission on July 13 that assistant trainer Jim Barnes accidentally exposed the horses to lidocaine after he put a medicinal pain patch on his back. He previously broke his pelvis, and his pain patch contained "traces of lidocaine." Baffert and his representatives argued that he accidentally transferred the drug to the horses through the application of tongue ties.
Lidocaine is a widely-used anesthetic in racing, but the Association of Racing Commissioners International considers it a Class 2 drug. Lidocaine is regulated due to its potential use as a masking agent to over performance-enhancing substances. Using the drug carries a penalty of a 15- to a 60-day suspension, as well as a fine between $500 and $1000 for a first-time offense.
"The trace levels of lidocaine found in both Charlatan and Gamine would have had no pharmacological effect, much less a performance-enhancing one, on either horse. Zero,'' said W. Craig Robertson, Baffert's attorney. "This is a case of innocent exposure and not intentional administration. A suspension of Mr. Baffert and a disqualification of either horse is completely unwarranted.''
Charlatan tested positive for lidocaine after earning $300,000 for winning a split division of the Arkansas Derby. The Arkansas Racing Commission disqualified the horse and stripped its owners of the prize money. Charlatan has dealt with a minor ankle issue that held the colt out of the Belmont Stakes on June 20. It will also miss the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. Gamine's owners forfeited $36,000 as part of the punishment.
Under the suspension, which will run Aug. 1-15, Baffert can not enter any horse in races. He also can not enter the track stable area. However, assistant trainers can enter Baffert's horses under their names in order to keep competing. Although the trainer said that he plans to appeal the decision.
The suspension has not begun just yet, and Baffert's horses have continued winning. Authentic won the Haskell Stakes on Saturday, extending Baffert's record to nine victories in the $1 million event. The horse earned 100 points for the Kentucky Derby, as well as a berth for the Breeders' Cup Classic in November.