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Friday, June 22
Baffert to seek restraining order

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The lawyer representing trainer Bob Baffert said on Thursday that he will go to Superior Court on Friday to seek a temporary restraining order against the California Horse Racing Board, allowing Baffert to appeal a 60-day suspension he was given last weekend for a morphine positive.

Neil Papiano, who represented Baffert at a hearing at Santa Anita in April, said he was going to court after CHRB chairman Robert Tourtelot denied Baffert's request for a stay of the suspension, which is scheduled to begin Monday and last through Aug. 23. The Baffert-trained Nautical Look had a positive postrace urine test for morphine following a win at Hollywood Park in May 2000.

On Wednesday, stewards Ingrid Fermin, Dave Samuel, and Tom Ward issued a statement of decision through the CHRB outlining their conclusions. Baffert was cited for having a positive test for morphine, which is not permitted for use in racehorses, and for being responsible for the condition of his starters.

In the findings, the stewards dismissed Baffert's claim that Nautical Look was accidentally contaminated from poppy seed bagels consumed by stable employees.

The stewards also criticized Baffert for not having a night watchman, for having lax security at the barn, and for not drug-testing employees. Regarding security, they cited an instance last February when Robert Harkness, a deputy attorney general who is prosecuting a similar morphine case against trainer Bobby Frankel this summer, gave himself and two other adults a tour of Baffert's stable and were not questioned by stable employees.

Although Nautical Look's blood sample was part of a batch randomly discarded last year by Truesdail Laboratories on instruction from the CHRB as a cost-saving measure, the stewards said that did not sway their decision. They wrote that the absence of a blood sample was "perceptually unfortunate" but stated that a separate split sample was available for 45 days following Nautical Look's race and that Baffert did not request a test of that sample.

"It is our position that lack of blood sample did not warrant a dismissal of the case before us," they wrote.

The discarded blood sample was at the center of Papiano's defense in April. "They said they were disturbed by the fact the blood was thrown away," Papiano said of the steward's document. "I'm glad they put that in. I admire them for taking that position."

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