Churchill Downs suspends Baffert following Medina Spirit’s positive test for banned drug

Hall of Fame trainer says he’s ready for fight to keep Kentucky Derby win
One week after celebrating his record seventh Kentucky Derby win, the Hall of Fame trainer is in a stretch duel to keep that trophy.
Updated: May. 9, 2021 at 3:58 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - In a morning press conference at Churchill Downs Sunday, horse racing trainer Bob Baffert revealed that Kentucky Derby 147 winner Medina Spirit’s post-race sample has tested positive for a banned race day substance.

“Yesterday, I got the biggest gut punch in racing for something that I didn’t do,” Baffert said.

One week after celebrating his record seventh Kentucky Derby win, the Hall of Fame trainer is in a stretch duel to keep that trophy.

Baffert confirmed the test revealed Medina Spirit had tested positive for betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory steroid medication. According to Baffert, 21 picograms were found within the Derby winner’s post-race sample.

The sample, taken after the Derby, tested positive for just over twice the allowed limit of the drug.

“All I can tell you is that betamethasone, even though it’s an allowed drug, therapeutic medication, we did not give it. My veterinarian, nobody here, as a matter of fact, Medina Spirit has never been treated with betamethasone,” Baffert said.

What does this mean for this year’s Derby result?

“First of all, he’s not disqualified yet, we have to go through the process, we have to do a DNA sample, was it him,” Baffert said. “Something is not right here, something’s not right, it’s not a disqualification until the split sample comes. It’s not official until the split sample comes, that’s part of the process, we haven’t even gotten to that yet.”

A disqualification would move up second place finisher Mandaloun, trained by Louisville native Brad Cox.

“Well it’s definitely not the way you want to win a race period, let alone the Kentucky Derby,” Cox said. So you know, look there’s a lot of legal matters or a process that we have to go through so it’s a long way from being over for sure, but we’ll see how things play out over the next few months or few years.

Baffert’s team will be starting their own investigation into the findings.

“It’s a complete injustice, and I’m going to fight it tooth and nail,” Baffert said. “I owe it to the horse, I owe it to the owner, and I owe it to our industry. Our industry needs to step up and we need to do a better job in racing.”

Mandaloun will not run in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, but Medina Spirit and stablemate Concert Tour are scheduled to leave Churchill Downs for Baltimore on Monday afternoon.

Churchill Downs released a statement Sunday morning on Medina Spirit’s post-race sample and the possible Derby disqualification, suspending Baffert from entering horses at the racetrack:

It is our understanding that Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit’s post-race blood sample indicated a violation of the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s equine medication protocols. The connections of Medina Spirit have the right to request a test of a split sample and we understand they intend to do so. 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.

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 will not tolerate it. 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. We will await the conclusion of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commissions’ investigation before taking further steps.

On Sunday afternoon, Pimlico Race Course’s media team released a statement that they were in talks with the Maryland Racing Commission on Medina Spirit’s entry into the Preakness Stakes.

While no decision has been made at this time on Medina Spirit’s eligibility to race, a review is in progress on the reported positive drug test.

Read the full statement here:

Integrity in the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing is the ultimate priority for 1/ST RACING and the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC). 1/ST RACING has been an industry leader instituting processes and protocols that have led to nationwide medication reform and increased accountability. We are committed to achieving the highest level of horse care and safety standards, and we have a proven track record of pushing those standards forward.

1/ST RACING and MJC intend to review the relevant facts and information relating to the reported medication positive as a result of the post-race blood sample testing completed by Churchill Downs following the 147th Kentucky Derby involving Medina Spirit trained by Bob Baffert. We are consulting with the Maryland Racing Commission and any decision regarding the entry of Medina Spirit in the 146thPreakness Stakes will be made after review of the facts.

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