LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Churchill Downs
suspended trainer Bob Baffert
for two years on Wednesday after another drug test on Medina Spirit
revealed the presence of the steroid betamethasone in the Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission
is still conducting its investigation
before making that decision, so Medina Spirit's disqualification could come next.
However, Baffert will be unable to enter horses
in the Kentucky Derby or other races at the storied Louisville track until the spring of 2023. Churchill Downs says it reserves the right to extend Baffert's suspension if he commits any other violations in other states
, which he has done five times in the past 13 months.
Churchill Downs suspended Baffert indefinitely pending the investigation, Maryland
racing officials allowed Medina Spirit and the Baffert-trained Concert Tour to run in the Preakness on May 15 only after three rounds of prerace testing, and New York
banned Baffert indefinitely and barred him from entering any horses in the Belmont Stakes.
“Reckless practices and substance violations that endanger the safety of our equine and human athletes or jeopardize 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.
Lawyers for Baffert and Medina Spirit owner Amr Zedan confirmed earlier Wednesday that the split-sample test for betamethasone came back positive.
According to Baffert's attorney, Craig Robertson, the second test revealed 25 picograms of the steroid, up from 21 picograms previously discovered. A trace amount of betamethasone — a picogram is a trillionth of one gram — is prohibited on race day in Kentucky, Maryland, and New York, which host the sport's Triple Crown races, and is considered a violation.
Additional testing is being carried out to try to trace the source of the drug to an ointment used to treat a skin infection rather than an injection
, according to Robertson, who, along with Zedan attorney Clark Brewster, expect tests to show that the ointment is to blame rather than injections into one of the horse's joints.
“I think that will shed the most prominent light on the issue here for us,” Brewster said by phone. “The whole basis for listing betamethasone is because it’s injected into a joint and they don’t want you to inject the joints too close to the race, so the whole substantive basis is out the window if it’s a salve, and it can be proven scientifically and empirically to be the saline.
Kentucky rules do not differentiate punishment based on the source of the substance, which can be given to horses to help their joints and which Baffert believes came from the dermatitis ointment. Churchill Downs said Medina Spirit would be disqualified if the split sample tested positive for betamethasone.
Sherelle Roberts-Pierre, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said the commission "values fairness and transparency and will provide information to the media
and public when an investigation is completed."
Brewster anticipated that the additional tests would be completed within a week to ten days.
“At the end of the day,” Robertson said, “we anticipate that this case will be about the treatment of Medina Spirit’s skin rash with Otomax, and we will have nothing further to say until the additional testing is completed.”
Mandaloun would be declared the winner of the Kentucky Derby on May 1 if Medina Spirit is disqualified.
“I can’t control the outcome, so it’s something I give very little thought to,” said Brad Cox, who trains
Mandaloun and would be the first Louisville trainer to win the race.