Story at a glance

  • A lab has confirmed Kentucky Derby winning horse Medina Spirit’s positive post-derby drug test, a result that could invalidate the colt’s victory.
  • Churchill Downs, site of the first leg of the elusive Triple Crown, pledged to award the derby win to the race’s runner-up should Medina Spirit’s second test come back positive.
  • An attorney for the colt’s owner told The New York Times that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission agreed to send original blood and urine samples to an independent, accredited laboratory for additional analysis.

A lab has confirmed Kentucky Derby winning horse Medina Spirit’s positive post-derby drug test in a result that could invalidate the colt’s victory. 

Churchill Downs, site of the first leg of the elusive Triple Crown, pledged to award the derby win to the race’s runner-up should Medina Spirit’s second test come back positive. The colt tested positive for the steroid betamethasone — an anti-inflammatory drug that is prohibited at any level on race day. 

Clark Brewster, an attorney representing the colt’s owner Amr Zedan, told The New York Times that the lab at the University of California, Davis, did not check for additional substances that “could prove the trace positive came from an inadvertent and materially inconsequential contamination sourced from a topical ointment used to treat Medina Spirit for a skin lesion on his hip.” 

The attorney added that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission agreed to send original blood and urine samples to an independent, accredited laboratory for additional analysis, which would test for compounds found in the ointment, according to the Times. 

“If it was inadvertent contamination, that should be taken into account,” Brewster said in a phone interview with NYT. “We’re hopeful that reasonable minds and good-intentioned regulators can see what it is, and what it is not, and not have a draconian response.”


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Bob Baffert, the colt’s trainer who was temporarily banned by Churchill Downs and the operators of the Preakness Stakes, could not immediately be reached for comment by the Times. The famous trainer previously cited updated regulations that might increase the likelihood that trace amounts of substances could appear in test results. 

“I never thought I’d have to be fighting for my reputation and the poor horse’s reputation,” Baffert said on Fox News in early May. “Because of the new regulations the regulators have put, they’re testing these horses at contaminated levels and it’s been a horrible experience.”

An invalidation of Medina Spirit's derby win would mark only the second occasion in Kentucky Derby history where a horse was disqualified due to a failed drug test. 


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Published on Jun 02, 2021