Story at a glance

  • Churchill Downs has suspended Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert from the track for two years after his Kentucky Derby winning horse Medina Spirit failed two post-race drug tests.
  • A lab confirmed that Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone, a substance banned at any level on race day.
  • Churchill Downs could move to vacate Medina Spirit’s derby victory, which would make the colt only the second horse in Kentucky Derby history to be disqualified due to failed drug tests.

Churchill Downs has suspended Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert from the track for two years after his Kentucky Derby winning horse Medina Spirit failed two post-race drug tests. 

A lab confirmed that Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone, a substance banned at any level on race day, and the track could move to invalidate Medina Spirit’s victory. 

"Reckless practices and substance violations that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated," Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in a statement, per The Associated Press (AP).

"Mr. Baffert's record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby. Given these repeated failures over the last year, including the increasingly extraordinary explanations, we firmly believe that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our duty and responsibility," Carstanjen added. 


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Attorneys for Baffert and Medina Spirit’s owner Amr Zedan said Wednesday that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has agreed to submit original blood and urine samples to an independent laboratory to test compounds consistent with an ointment used to treat the colt’s dermatitis, according to the Associated Press. 

Baffert’s attorney, Craig Robertson, confirmed that Medina Spirit’s second test showed 25 picograms of the illegal substance, but added there will be no further comment until “the additional testing is complete.” 

Clark Brewster, an attorney representing the colt’s owner told The New York Times Wednesday the lab that confirmed the second positive test did not check for 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.”


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“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.”

When asked by the AP whether results from another independent test could have an influence on the outcome, he told the outlet it was asking him “to predict the behavior and the decision-making of others, but if you ask me ‘should’ — absolutely.”

Baffert was previously suspended by the New York Racing Commission, the group that operates the Preakness Stakes. Meanwhile, should Churchill Downs move to vacate Medina Spirit’s derby victory, the colt will become only the second horse in Kentucky Derby history to be disqualified due to failed drug tests. 


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Published on Jun 03, 2021