Medina Spirit’s failed drug test confirmed, coach suspended for 2 years

Medina Spirit's failed drug test confirmed, coach suspended for 2 years

A second drug test for Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit after the race confirmed that a banned substance is present, an attorney for the horse’s trainer said Wednesday.

While a decision on whether Medina Spirit will be disqualified depends on the outcome of an investigation by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) was swiftly moved by Bob Baffert, coach of the Col of Hall of Fame, for to ban two years.

In the ruling, CDI said he could no longer overlook Baffert’s history of drug test failures.

Jockey John Velazquez (L) watches as coach Bob Baffert wins the winning trophy after winning Medina Spirit on May 1, 2021 in the 147th run of the Kentucky Derby in Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.. (Jeff Roberson / AP Photo)

In just over a year, five horses trained by Baffert did not fail drug tests.

“Mr Baffert’s record of failure testing threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby,” CDI chief executive Bill Carstanjen said in a statement.

“Given these repeated failures over the past year, including the increasingly extraordinary declarations, we firmly believe that it is our duty and responsibility to claim our rights to impose these measures.”

The suspension prohibits Baffert, or any trainer directly or indirectly employed by Bob Baffert Racing Stables, from racing horses on CDI tracks.

Baffert’s lawyer confirmed earlier Wednesday that a second sample of Medina Spirit had found the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone at a banned level.

Baffert had earlier said that Otomax, an antifungal ointment for the treatment of dermatitis, could be the source of the positive test of Medina Spirit, and the coach’s lawyer said further tests were being done.

‘Other tests are also being done, including DNA tests. “We expect this additional testing to confirm that the presence of betamethasone came from the local ointment, Otomax, and not from an injection,” attorney Craig Robertson told Reuters in an email.

“At the end of the day, we expect this case to be about treating Medina Spirit’s skin rash with Otomax.”

Medina Gees
John Velazquez rides on Medina Spirit and leads Florent Geroux on Mandaloun and Flavien Prat rides on Hot Rod Charlie to win the 147th run of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., On May 1, 2021. (Jeff Roberson / AP Photo)

Baffert, who won a record of the seventh Kentucky Derby with Medina Spirit on May 1, earlier said the horse developed dermatitis on its back in April and his veterinarian recommends daily use of Otomax to prevent it from spreading.

Medina Spirit’s initial sample after the Kentucky Derby in Churchill Downs showed 21 picograms of betamethasone, more than the legal limit in Kentucky racing, and Robertson said the second test confirmed the findings of the substance at 25 picograms.

The racetrack had earlier said that Medina Spirit would be disqualified and runner-up Mandaloun would be named the winner if a second round of tests showed the presence of betamethasone.

Despite the original positive test, Medina Spirit is in the Preakness Stakes on May 15, the second gem in Triple Crown, in the United States, where he finished third behind Rombauer.

Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit
Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit is groomed after a morning practice at the Pimlico racetrack ahead of the Preakness Stakes race in Baltimore, Md., On May 11, 2021. (Julio Cortez / AP Photo)

Animal rights groups have urged both the CDI and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to take strong action and demand that Medina Spirit be stripped of the victory and that Baffert be given a life ban.

“We call on Churchill Downs to show no mercy and to permanently ban Bob Baffert and his horses from the Kentucky Derby and all of Churchill Downs’ tracks,” said Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action.

“It’s time to end the fraud and drug abuse within the fastest two minutes in sport, and an example must be given.”

By Frank Pingue