Britain’s champion jockey banned from racing for 14 months

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Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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LONDON — British horse racing’s champion jockey was banned for 14 months because of a variety of offenses, including two positive tests for alcohol at racecourses.

Oisin Murphy faced an independent judiciary panel in relation to five charges – two relating to failed tests for alcohol and separate counts of misleading the British Horseracing Authority about his whereabouts, accessing a racecourse in breach of COVID-19 restrictions, and conduct prejudicial to the good reputation of the sport.

Murphy did not contest any of the charges and was given three 11-month suspensions – to run concurrently – along with two bans, totaling 100 days, for the positive alcohol tests.

The suspension period was backdated to December when Murphy decided to relinquish his license and seek “serious help.” He is ineligible to reapply for his license until Feb. 16, 2023.

He was also handed a fine of 31,111 pounds ($42,290).

The 26-year-old Irishman has been crowned flat-racing champion in Britain for the last three seasons.

The panel heard Murphy went on holiday to the Greek island of Mykonos, which was on the COVID red list at the time, for 10 days in September 2020. He later attempted to convince racing officials he had been to Lake Como in Italy.

Murphy subsequently failed two breath tests for alcohol at Chester in May and Newmarket in October. They were his second and third breaches within the allotted time period to trigger a lengthy ban.

In a lengthy statement to the BHA panel, Murphy said: “Now that I’m sober, I’m a different person and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made those errors sober, but I can’t go back in time and I’m afraid they were grave issues.

“I dealt with success and failure the same,” he said. “Drink was the rock I perished on. People had told me this could happen, but I failed to avoid it and fell into the trap.”

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.