Trainer: Kentucky Derby winner was treated with with ointment that contained steroid, led to failed drug test

(NEW YORK) — The Kentucky Derby-winning horse, Medina Spirit, had been treated with an antifungal ointment containing a steroid that caused it to fail a postrace drug test, trainer Bob Baffert acknowledged on Tuesday.

Baffert issued a statement through his lawyer, saying that the horse was given the ointment once per day leading up to May 1st’s Kentucky Derby, as a treatment for dermatitis. He says that equine pharmacology experts have told him that the treatment could explain the test results.

Medina Spirit had tested positive for 21 picograms of the steroid betamethasone, Baffert said. That substance is typically given to horses therapeutically to help their joints. It is legal to use, but it is not allowed to be in the horse’s system, even in trace amounts, on race day in Kentucky.

If Medina Spirit were to test positive in a second round of testing, the horse would be automatically disqualified, making runner-up Mandaloun the winner.

“I intend to continue to investigate and I will continue to be transparent,” Baffert’s statement said.

“I had no knowledge of how betamethasone could have possibly found its way into Medina Spirit (until now), and this has never been a case of attempting to game the system or get an unfair advantage,” he added. “Second, horse racing must address its regulatory problem when it comes to substances which can innocuously find their way into a horse’s system at the picogram (which is a trillionth of a gram) level. Medina Spirit earned his Kentucky Derby win, and my pharmacologists have told me that 21 picograms of betamethasone would have had no effect on the outcome of the race.”

“Medina Spirit is a deserved champion and I will continue to fight for him.”

Medina Spirit’s win was Baffert’s seventh Kentucky Derby win as a trainer, an all-time record.

Baffert said on Tuesday that he had reached an agreement with officials for the Preakness Stakes, the second event in horse racing’s Triple Crown, that will allow Medina Spirit to take part in the race. The horse will, though, be subject to additional testing and monitoring.

“We reached an agreement with Mr. Baffert and his lawyers that allows for additional testing, additional monitoring — essentially a watchlist to ensure the integrity of the sport leading up to the race,” Maryland Jockey Club lawyer Alan Rifkin said. “We’re very pleased to have that, and we appreciate Mr. Baffert’s patience and the way in which his lawyers went about it.”

Medina Spirit drew the number three post for Saturday’s race, and was installed as a 9-to-5 morning line favorite.

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