According to Bob Baffert
's lawyer, a split-sample test of Kentucky Derby
winner Medina Spirit
revealed the presence of the steroid betamethasone, which could result in the horse's disqualification and punishment for the Hall of Fame
Even 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 considered a violation, according to attorney Craig Robertson.
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. He and attorney Clark Brewster, who represents Medina Spirit owner Amr Zedan, 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
According to a Churchill Downs spokesman, the track is waiting for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to officially notify it of the split-sample test results.
“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.”
Brewster anticipated that the additional tests would be completed within a week to ten days.
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.
Baffert is currently suspended by the New York Racing Association and is not permitted to enter any horses in this weekend's Belmont Stakes pending the outcome of the Derby investigation, and he may face additional sanctions
as a result of his fifth medication violation in the last 13 months.
After passing three rounds of prerace testing, Maryland officials allowed Medina Spirit and the Baffert-trained Concert Tour to compete in the May 15 Preakness at Pimlico, and filly Beautiful Gift to compete in the Black-Eyed Susan the day before. Medina Spirit finished third and Concert Tour ninth in the second jewel of racing's Triple Crown, which was held without Baffert in attendance.
In a May 9 news
conference announcing the positive result, Baffert initially denied wrongdoing, calling it "the biggest gut-punch in racing for something I didn't do." He later cited the antifungal ointment as a possible cause.
When asked if he thought tests showing evidence of steroid use from an ointment would change the outcome, Brewster said, "You're asking me to predict the behavior and decision-making of others, but if you ask me'should,' — absolutely."
Animal Wellness Action activist Marty Irby said the drug test results came as "no surprise" and urged Kentucky racing officials to revoke Baffert's Derby title and permanently ban him.
If Churchill Downs rules Medina Spirit out of the Derby, Baffert's record-breaking seventh Derby victory will be erased, resulting in an embarrassing setback for the two-time Triple Crown winner and horse racing's face.
This would be the second Derby disqualification in three years, following the disqualification of 2019 winner Maximum Security
for interference after the race, with Country House
declared the winner. The only other time a Derby winner was disqualified after the race for failing a postrace drug test was Dancer's Image in 1968.
Baffert successfully appealed his suspension in Arkansas
just before the Derby after filly Gamine and colt Charlatan tested positive for lidocaine after victories at Oaklawn Park in May 2020, and fines
were reduced to $5,000 per horse.
Officials from the California
Racing Commission voted in January to allow 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify to keep his Santa Anita Derby victory despite the presence of scopolamine in postrace samples.