Additional testing is planned after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a postrace drug test, throwing the horse’s victory at Churchill Downs earlier this month into doubt.
Hall-of-Fame trainer Bob Baffert revealed the test results Sunday, saying the three-year-old colt tested positive for elevated levels of betamethasone, which is an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid and sometimes used to relieve joint pain in horses.
Betamethasone is allowed in horse racing in certain amounts, but Baffert said he’d been informed Medina Spirit’s postrace test detected 21 picograms per milliliter — more than double the allowed limit in Kentucky racing.
The revelation came just over a week after Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, beating second-place Mandaloun by half a length. The win delivered Baffert a record seventh Derby victory.
A split sample from Medina Spirit’s postrace blood sample will now be tested, and if the original results are confirmed, Baffert will have a chance to appeal.
In the meantime, Churchill Downs said it “immediately suspended” Baffert “from entering any horses at Churchill Downs Racetrack.”
“Failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of the horses and jockeys, the integrity of our sport and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby and all who participate,” Churchill Downs said in a statement Sunday.
“We will await the conclusion of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s investigation before taking further steps.”
Baffert denied Medina Spirit has ever been treated with Betamethasone and said his team will conduct its own investigation.
“These are pretty serious accusations here, but we’re going to get to the bottom of it and find out. We know we didn’t do it,” Baffert said, calling the test results an “injustice to the horse.”
Horse race enthusiasts are keeping an eye on how this will impact Saturday’s Preakness Stakes. The race at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course is the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.
Organizers said they will “review the relevant facts and information” related to Medina Spirit’s positive blood test and are consulting with the Maryland Racing Commission on any decision regarding the horse’s entry in the Preakness Stakes.
Baffert alleges ‘problems in racing’
This is not Baffert’s first run-in with reports that his horse failed a drug test: Last month, according to multiple reports, including the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Arkansas Racing Commission upheld a ruling that two of Baffert’s horses had tested positive for lidocaine beyond the accepted levels. However, the commission dropped a 15-day suspension for Baffert.
Baffert alluded to previous controversies on Sunday — “I don’t feel safe to train,” he said — but cast the allegation about Medina Spirit as an issue with the broader horse racing industry, saying the industry “needs to step up and we need to do a better job in racing.”
“I’m not a conspiracy (theorist) — I know everybody’s not out to get me. But there’s definitely something wrong. Why is it happening, you know, to me?” he asked. “There’s problems in racing, but it’s not Bob Baffert.”
In 2009, Baffert was inducted into the sport’s Hall of Fame, which puts his number of wins at 3,120, with more than $320 million in purse earnings.
He became the 11th trainer to win the Triple Crown in 2015 when American Pharoah won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. He became only the second trainer to ever win the Triple Crown twice just a few years later with the horse Justify.