Trainer Bob Baffert suspended from Belmont after Kentucky Derby winner fails drug test
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) temporarily suspended Bob Baffert, the trainer for Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, in the aftermath of the horse failing a post-race drug test.
NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke announced the suspension in a statement on Monday, citing Medina Spirit’s positive post-Kentucky Derby drug test and previous drug violations discovered among Baffert’s horses.
During the time of the suspension Baffert will be forbidden from running any horses or occupying stall space at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and the Aqueduct Racetrack, effectively barring Medina Spirit from entering the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown, which will take place in June.
The NYRA said it expects to make a final decision regarding the length and terms of Baffert’s suspension based on the results of the ongoing investigation in Kentucky, including Medina Spirit’s post-race test.
Just over one week after the Kentucky Derby, Baffert revealed that Media Spirit’s post-race blood sample tested positive for the anti-inflammatory betamethasone.
Any level of detection of the steroid the day of a race is a violation, according to The Associated Press.
Baffert at first said Medina Spirit was not treated with betamethasone, only to reveal days later that the colt was treated with an ointment that contained the steroid.
Officials are now waiting for the horse’s spit sample to return. If that test is positive for betamethasone, Media Spirit will be disqualified from the Kentucky Derby, giving the first-place finish to runner-up Mandaloun.
The NYRA said the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is required to wait for the spit-sample results before making a final determination on Medina Spirit’s suspension.
The NYRA also noted previous failed drug tests among Baffert’s horses, writing that it “has taken into account the fact that other horses trained by Mr. Baffert have failed drug tests in the recent past, resulting in the assessment of penalties against him by thoroughbred racing regulators in Kentucky, California, and Arkansas.”
According to The New York Times, Baffert received five high-profile drug violations in 13 months, and 30 overall.
“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,” O’Rourke said in a statement.
“That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of thoroughbred racing.”
The Hill reached out to Baffert for comment.
Medina Spirit was cleared to race in the Preakness last week, after Baffert agreed to rigorous testing and monitoring of the colt, and full transparency of medical and testing results.
According to the Times, Medina Spirit passed three rounds of blood and urine tests.
The horse ultimately placed third in the race.
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