Kentucky Derby Winner Medina Spirit Fails Drug Test; Trainer Suspended

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Kentucky Derby Winner Medina Spirit Fails Drug Test; Trainer Suspended” – below is their description.

    Medina Spirit’s victory in the Kentucky Derby is in serious jeopardy because of a failed postrace drug test, one that led Churchill Downs to suspend Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert on Sunday in the latest scandal to plague the sport.

    Baffert denied all wrongdoing and promised to be fully transparent with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission during its investigation. Baffert’s barn received word Saturday that Medina Spirit had tested positive for an excessive amount of the steroid betamethasone, which is sometimes used to treat pain and inflammation in horses.

    Medina Spirit’s win over Mandaloun in the Derby stands — for now.

    “To be clear, if the findings are upheld, Medina Spirit’s results in the Kentucky Derby will be invalidated and Mandaloun will be declared the winner,” Churchill Downs officials said in a statement shortly after Baffert held a hastily planned morning news conference outside his barn to announce and respond to the allegations.

    The track said failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of horses and jockeys, the sport’s integrity and the Derby’s reputation.

    “Churchill Downs will not tolerate it,” the statement read. “Given the seriousness of the alleged offense, Churchill Downs will immediately suspend Bob Baffert, the trainer of Medina Spirit, from entering any horses at Churchill Downs Racetrack.”

    Medina Spirit is expected to run in the Preakness on Saturday, barring some abrupt change in plans or a decision from officials at Pimlico or Maryland’s racing commission that would prevent him from entering the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

    Officials from 1/ST Racing, a branding arm of the Stronach Group that owns and operates Pimlico, and the Maryland Jockey Club said Sunday they would consult with state authorities and that “any decision regarding the entry of Medina Spirit in the 146th Preakness Stakes will be made after review of the facts.” Officials rescheduled the post position draw for Tuesday afternoon, moving it back a day in light of the uncertainty.

    “I got the biggest gut-punch in racing for something that I didn’t do,” Baffert said of the failed drug test. “And it’s disturbing. It’s an injustice to the horse. … I don’t know what’s going on in racing right now, but there’s something not right. I don’t feel embarrassed. I feel like I was wronged. We’re going to do our own investigation. We’re going to be transparent with the racing commission, like we’ve always been.

    “He’s a great horse. He doesn’t deserve this. He ran a gallant race,” Baffert added.

    The only horse to be disqualified for medication after winning the Derby is Dancer’s Image in 1968.

    Medina Spirit is Baffert’s fifth horse known to have failed a drug test in just over a year. Flanked by his attorney Craig Robertson, Baffert said his barn was told that Medina Spirit was found to have 21 picograms of betamethasone — slightly more than double what the trainer said was the allowable amount — in a postrace sample.

    Betamethasone is the same drug that was found in the system of Gamine, another Baffert-trained horse who finished third in the Kentucky Oaks last September. Gamine was eventually disqualified from that finish because of that test and Baffert was fined $1,500. Betamethasone is legal under Kentucky racing rules, though it must be cleared 14 days before a horse races.

    “I’m not a conspiracy theorist,” Baffert said. “I know everybody is not out to get me, but there’s definitely something wrong. Why is it happening to me? You know, there’s problems in racing, but it’s not Bob Baffert.”

    Mandaloun, which lost the Derby by a half-length, is not going to the Preakness. If Mandaloun is declared the Kentucky Derby winner, that would mean the Triple Crown pursuit for 2021 would end right there. It is unknown how long Kentucky officials will take to determine whether the results of the Derby should stand or will change.

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