(NEW YORK) — Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit has failed a second post-race test for betamethasone, Bob Baffert’s attorney Craig Robertson said in a statement.
News of the failed test was first reported by The New York Times.
Medina Spirit could become the second horse in the 147-year history of the race to be disqualified after a win due to a failed drug test. Only the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission can disqualify Medina Spirit.
The first was Dancer’s Image in 1968.
Churchill Downs Incorporated, which runs the Derby, has suspended Baffert for two years through the conclusion of the 2023 Spring Meet.
“CDI has consistently advocated for strict medication regulations so that we can confidently ensure that horses are fit to race and the races are conducted fairly,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of CDI in a statement. “Reckless practices and substance violations that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated. Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby. Given these repeated failures over the last year, including the increasingly extraordinary explanations, we firmly believe that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our duty and responsibility.”
No horse trained by Baffert, or any trainer directly or indirectly employed by Bob Baffert Racing Stables be entered in races at CDI-owned tracks.
“Churchill Downs has taken swift and meaningful action against Bob Baffert, but the penalty falls short of seeing justice and that track as well as others around the nation should consider a greater penalty for the trainer,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action in a statement. “He’s sneered at weak penalties for doping violations again and again. Baffert will only get the message with a long-term suspension from the sport.”
The win was the seventh for Baffert, which broke the record for most wins at the Derby for one trainer.
Robertson said that 25 picograms of the banned substance were found in a split sample, which was tested at the University of California-Davis, according to Clark Brewster, the lawyer for Medina Spirit owner Amr Zeda, who spoke with the New York Times.
In a text message to the paper, Brewster said the lab did not test for the presence of other compounds “which could prove the trace positive came from an inadvertent and materially inconsequential contamination sourced from a topical ointment used to treat Medina Spirit for a skin lesion on his hip.”
Brewster also told the New York Times the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has agreed to send Medina Spirit’s original blood and urine samples to an independent lab to test for other compounds.
“The K.H.R.C. is not going to be providing comment or updates on the status of this ongoing investigation. We will provide information when the entire matter is complete,” a spokesperson for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission told the New York Times in an email when asked to comment on the second failed test.
News of the original failed test came on May 9, when Baffert announced his horse tested positive for 21 picograms of the drug and said he was starting an investigation.
Two days later, Baffert released a statement through his lawyer saying Medina Spirit was given an Otomax after developing dermatitis following the Santa Anita Derby and that Medina Spirit was given the ointment daily up until the day before the Kentucky Derby.
Bob Baffert Tuesday statement below explains that Otomax, an ointment he says was recommended by his vet to treat dermatitis on Medina Spirit’s hind end, includes betamethasone.
Baffert also states that 21 picograms of betamethasone would have had no effect on the KYD outcome.pic.twitter.com/zQXCfJhdIH
— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN)May 11, 2021
The statement goes on to say on May 10, he was made aware that the ointment contained the banned substance and equine experts say that could be the cause of the positive test.
Ahead of the Preakness Stakes, Maryland officials required Medina Spirit, Concert Tour, and Black-Eyed Susan runner Beautiful Gift – both trained by Baffert- to undergo three rounds of pre-race testing. All passed the tests.
Medina Spirit finished third and Concert Tour ninth in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 16. Beautiful Gift finished seventh at the Black-Eyed Susan that was run the day before
In May, the New York Racing Association announced a temporary suspension for Baffert from Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack, and Saratoga Race Course.
“In order to maintain a successful thoroughbred racing industry in New York, NYRA must protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public, and racing participants,” said NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke in a statement at that time. “That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of thoroughbred racing.”
The Belmont Stakes take place on Saturday.
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