LOS ANGELES — Two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended for 15 days by the Arkansas Racing Commission after two of his horses tested positive for a banned substance.
The commission said in a ruling announced Wednesday that the suspension will run Aug. 1-15. The Oaklawn Park stewards found Baffert violated Rule 1233, which states that a trainer shall ultimately be responsible for the condition of any horse that is entered regardless of the acts of any third parties.
His horses Charlatan and Gamine each tested positive for lidocaine in two rounds of testing after winning races at the Hot Springs, Arkansas, track on May 2.
In separate rulings, the commission disqualified both horses and stripped them of their purse earnings. Gamine’s forfeited purse was $36,000.
Lidocaine, a widely used anesthetic in racing, is considered a Class 2 drug by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and use of it carries a penalty of a 15- to 60-day suspension and a fine of $500 to $1,000 for a first offense. The drug’s use is regulated because it can act as a masking agent.
The commission did not announce the levels of lidocaine found in either horse. However, Baffert said in a statement earlier this month that the level in Gamine was 185 picograms, while Charlatan had 46 picograms. A picogram is a trillionth of a gram.
Baffert said earlier this month that he believes both horses were “unknowingly and innocently” exposed to lidocaine by one of his stable employees. The employee had broken his pelvis and was suffering from back pain in the days leading up to May 2. He applied a pain relieving patch, which contained small amounts of lidocaine, according to Baffert’s statement.
The trainer said he believes the lidocaine from the patch was inadvertently transferred from the employee’s hands to the horses through the use of tongue ties applied by the employee who handled both animals leading up to their races.
“This is a case of innocent exposure and not intentional administration,” Baffert said in the statement. “The extreme sensitivity of modern day testing can now pick up trace levels of innocent contaminants that have no effect on a horse. This is an issue that regulators of horse racing need to account for and address.”
Charlatan tested positive after earning $300,000 for winning a split division of the Arkansas Derby. The 3-year-old colt has been sidelined by a minor ankle issue that forced him to miss the Belmont Stakes on June 20 and will keep him out of the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. Baffert has said the Preakness on Oct. 3 remains a possibility. The Triple Crown series has been rescheduled and is being run out of order because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gamine, a 3-year-old filly, won her most recent start in the Acorn Stakes on June 20 at New York’s Belmont Park. She romped by 18¾ lengths in stakes-record time.