Failed drug test may strip Medina Spirit of Kentucky Derby win; Trainer Baffert suspended

Published 9:23 pm Sunday, May 9, 2021

Medina Spirit’s victory in the Kentucky Derby is in serious jeopardy because of a failed postrace drug test, one that led Churchill Downs to suspend Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert on Sunday in the latest scandal to plague the sport.

Baffert denied all wrongdoing and promised to be fully transparent with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission during its investigation. Baffert’s barn received word Saturday that Medina Spirit had tested positive for an excessive amount of the steroid betamethasone, which is sometimes used to treat pain and inflammation in horses.

Medina Spirit’s win over Mandaloun in the Derby stands — for now.

“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,” Churchill Downs officials said in a statement shortly after Baffert held a hastily planned morning news conference outside his barn to announce and respond to the allegations.

The track said failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of horses and jockeys, the sport’s integrity and the Derby’s reputation.

“Churchill Downs will not tolerate it,” the statement read. “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.”

Medina Spirit is expected to run in the Preakness on Saturday, barring some abrupt change in plans or a decision from officials at Pimlico or Maryland’s racing commission that would prevent him from entering the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

Officials from 1/ST Racing, a branding arm of the Stronach Group that owns and operates Pimlico, and the Maryland Jockey Club said Sunday they would consult with state authorities and that “any decision regarding the entry of Medina Spirit in the 146th Preakness Stakes will be made after review of the facts.” Officials rescheduled the post position draw for Tuesday afternoon, moving it back a day in light of the uncertainty.