Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended by Churchill Downs after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for the topical steroid cream betamethasone.
Sports Illustrated report that the California-based trainer, who won his record-seventh Kentucky Derby, said the Kentucky Racing Commission informed his assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes on Saturday that Medina Spirit tested positive for 21 picograms of the anti-inflammatory medicine in a post-race sample. The legal limit in Kentucky is 10 picograms.
“I don’t know what’s going on in racing right now, but there’s something not right,” Baffert said in a press conference at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning.
“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. […] This horse was never treated with this. He’s a great horse. He doesn’t deserve this.”
The racetrack later announced that if the findings are upheld by a split sample test, Medina Spirit will be disqualified and runner-up 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 released in a statement. “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.”
Baffert denied that anyone in his team had administered the drug to the horse, which he said is still the Kentucky Derby winner until the completion of the inquiry.
“Yesterday, I got the biggest gut punch for something I didn’t do,” Baffert said. “We have to do a DNA sample. Something is not right. It’s not a disqualification until the split sample comes back. That’s a part of the process and we haven’t even gotten to that yet.”
On 12-1 odds, Medina Spirit was a shock winner of the 146th Kentucky Derby on May 1. The colt was sold as a yearling for only $1,000 and was a bargain for current owner Amr Zedan of Saudi Arabia at $35,000. The horse is still slated to run the 146th Preakness on May 15 in Baltimore, according to Baffert.
The Hall of Fame trainer was fined and suspended last year by the Arkansas Racing Commission after two of his horses tested positive for the painkiller lidocaine. Baffert won his appeal to the commission in the month leading up to this year’s Kentucky Derby, blaming the positive tests on a pain patch worn by his assistant, who saddled the horses.
Betamethasone was also found in the system of Gamine, another horse trained by Baffert, after the filly finished third in the Kentucky Oaks last September.
PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said that the time has long passed for regulators to stop ‘protecting’ Baffert with minimal fines.
“Thirty verified drug violations over his career, with five in just the last year, point to a pattern that should never have been tolerated these long years. He will undoubtedly come up with yet another implausible excuse, but this time, the regulators need to get a backbone, protect the horses from systematic abuse, and ban him permanently from racing.”
www.si.com – additional reporting by SP editorial staff