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Kentucky Derby winner fails drug test, Trainer Baffert suspended


Kentucky Derby winner fails drug test, Trainer Baffert suspended

The colt Medina Sprit won’t know the difference, but his victory in last week’s Kentucky Derby is at risk after a positive post-race drug test. Meanwhile, Bob Baffert,  the most successful trainer in the sport has been suspended pending an investigation of the incident.

Baffert issued a statement denying wrongdoing and promised to be fully transparent with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission during its investigation. The news came out yesterday 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.

Bob Baffert, trained Medina Spirit. He denies doping the horse.

“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 respond to the latest allegation.

“Churchill Downs will not tolerate it,” the statement read. “Given the seriousness of the alleged offence, Churchill Downs will immediately suspend Bob Baffert, the trainer of Medina Spirit, from entering any horses at Churchill Downs Racetrack.”

Medina Spirit is still slated 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.

Controversy has dogged Baffert

Baffert has been associated with several failed drug tests in his horses. As of November 2020, 29 of Baffert’s horses had failed drug tests over four decades, including four horses in 2020. One of the most notorious events involved Justify, who tested positive for scopolamine after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby. Although the amount detected was well in excess of the regulatory limit, the case was eventually dismissed as the regulators felt all the facts supported an instance of feed contamination. Similarly, cases against two horses who tested positive in Arkansas in 2020 for lidocaine were dismissed as being the result of accidental transfer from an assistant trainer who was using the medication on himself. In the case of Medina Spirit, Baffert denies ever administering the drug, a corticosteroid, to the horse. adding, Medina Spirit’s test positive will be further investigated both through the remaining split sample and DNA analysis of the horse’s hair.

Winning record as trainer

Bob Baffert trained the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify. Baffert’s horses have won seven Kentucky Derbies, seven Preakness Stakes, three Belmont Stakes and three Kentucky Oaks. He holds the record for most Kentucky Derby wins by a horse trainer with Medina Spirit’s win at the 2021 Derby, if the victory holds up.

“I’m worried about our sport,” Baffert said. “Our sport, we’ve taken a lot of hits as a sport. These are pretty serious accusations here, but we’re going to get to the bottom of it and find out. We know we didn’t do it.”

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