PETA and NYCLASS Call On NYRA to Explain How Ties to Disgraced Trainer Will Influence Decisions
For Immediate Release:
May 18, 2021
David Perle 202-483-7382
New York – PETA and NYCLASS are calling on the New York Racing Association (NYRA) today to explain how it will deal with conflicts of interest that may influence its decision on whether trainer Bob Baffert will be permanently banned from NYRA-operated tracks, given that at least four board members appear to have or have had business ties with the disgraced trainer.
On Monday, NYRA suspended Baffert from racing at New York tracks pending a ruling by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Medina Spirit, who tested positive for the prohibited drug betamethasone following his win in the Kentucky Derby.
In a letter sent this morning to NYRA, the groups point out the following connections to Baffert:
- Board member Timothy Mara is a partner with Starlight Racing, which lists Baffert as a trainer. Starlight is a part-owner of the Baffert-trained Charlatan, who was found to have lidocaine in his system after winning a division of the Arkansas Derby last year. Starlight was also a part-owner of Justify when he raced in 2018.
- Board member Georgeanna Nugent is a partner of StarLadies Racing, which is part of Starlight racing.
- Board member Joseph Appelbaum is a cofounder of Off the Hook, a breeding, racing, and sales company. Off the Hook was the consignor for Du Jour, who is trained by Baffert and partly owned by his wife, Jill Baffert. DuJour sold for $280,000.
- Board member Steven Duncker was the breeder of Mental Giant, who sold for $275,000 and was trained by Baffert. It’s in the breeder’s best interests to preserve the reputation of the trainer as well as a horse’s innate talent.
“We are concerned by potential conflicts of interest among some members of the board who appear to have or have had business ties to Baffert. … How will you ensure that these potential conflicts of interest don’t compromise—or even appear to compromise—your actions in this case?” write NYCLASS and PETA in their letter to NYRA. “Regulations are not simply meant to keep racing fair, but to protect horses. Drugging is abuse—and anyone who abuses a horse must not be allowed to race in New York.”
NYCLASS is an animal rights advocacy and political action nonprofit organization based in New York. PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.