Trainer Richard Baltas filed a lawsuit Aug. 17 against the California Horse Racing Board, its officers and board members, seeking damages of more than $12 million for allegedly being denied his right to due process as provided under the United States and California Constitutions.
The lawsuit was filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles County.
The CHRB had investigated the circumstances surrounding the late scratch of Baltas trainee Noble Reflection May 8 at Santa Anita Park. The CHRB said that between April 15 and May 8, 23 of Baltas' horses were captured on surveillance video being administered a pair of substances—higenamine, a stimulant, and paeonol, an anti-inflammatory—by members of Baltas' staff.
According to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, higenamine is a stimulant that is classified as a beta-2 agonist, which means it is banned at all times—in and out of competition. Paeonol, according to the National Library of Medicine, has been used for decades as an anti-inflammatory for people.
Citing his right to due process as mentioned in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Article I, §7, of the California Constitution, Baltas is seeking special compensatory damages for monies "already lost and for future damages in an amount commensurate with what Baltas would have earned if his reputation was not destroyed," an amount estimated at $10 million. He is also seeking general damages "in the form of emotional and psychological distress, pain and suffering, anxiety, stress, depression, worry, inconvenience," an amount in excess of $2 million. He also wants punitive damages for what he is calling "the malicious, oppressive, and/or fraudulent conduct of the CHRB."
In his suit, Baltas claims a syringe found in a feed bag as part of the investigation turned up clean of any banned substance. He adds that of the other 22 instances cited by the CHRB, there were no positive tests for banned substances.
Baltas alleges in the suit that the CHRB's decision to ban him from entering horses in competition since May 8 has cost him "many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars." He claims that he "stands to lose many millions of dollars in damages in an amount to be determined at jury trial for lost earnings, the loss of clients who entrusted their horses training to him, and an irrevocable damage to his reputation."
In the lawsuit, Baltas claims CHRB executive director Scott Chaney was willing to accept a one-year suspension of Baltas' license with time served being credited to the trainer. Baltas calls a one-year suspension "a death sentence."
1/ST Racing was the first entity to ban Baltas. The track owner/operator, which in California owns Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields, prevented him from entering horses at its facilities May 12.
Read the full lawsuit here.