Will Bob Baffert Recover from the Medina Spirit Drug Test Scandal at the 2021 Kentucky Derby?
Bob Baffert, one of thoroughbred racing’s legendary trainers, is having one of his best years and one of his worst.
After taking Medina Spirit to a surprise victory at this year’s Kentucky Derby, Baffert learned that the horse tested positive (post-race) for a prohibited anti-inflammatory drug and could be disqualified.
If Medina Spirit is disqualified, Mandaloun will become the official winner of 2021 Kentucky Derby.
In fact, at the time of this writing, Wikipedia was reporting Mandaloun as the winner, noting that “Medina Spirit crossed the finish line first, but was later disqualified after failing a drug test.”
That “later” has not happened yet, but it might.
The Biggest Gut Punch in Racing History
Thoroughbred racehorses are routinely tested after a race for various “performance-enhancing” drugs. Like his fellow competitors, Medina Spirit’s blood was drawn shortly after the Kentucky Derby’s 147th run.
That sample tested positive for betamethasone at more than double the level allowed up until last summer, when the allowable 10 picogram per milliliter was reduced to zero.
Baffert spoke to Bloodhorse, calling the test results “the biggest gut punch in racing history.”
Baffert has requested that a split sample of Medina Spirit’s post-race blood draw be tested by an independent lab to confirm, or invalidate, the original lab’s findings.
If the second test contradicts the initial result, the investigation will continue.
The Drug in Question
Corticosteroid betamethasone is a drug approved for use on thoroughbred racing horses, but many states, including Kentucky, require a 14-day “withdrawal period” after the drug’s use before allowing the treated horse to run a race.
It is an anti-inflammatory drug and is typically administered via injection or used in a topical ointment to reduce both pain and swelling.
Baffert maintains that Medina Spirit has never had the drug administered and suggested a variety of alternatives that may have inadvertently exposed the horse to the steroid.
Some plausible, and some not so plausible. His suggested that the positive result could be attributed to Medina Spirit eating hay that was contaminated when a groom who had taken cough medicine peed in his stall.
Outlandish as that might seem, Baffert’s theories about how Medina Spirit could have come into accidental contact with the steroid would be easier to believe if he did not have a history of positive drug tests.
In the last four years, his horses have tested positive for prohibited levels of drugs in four of the nation’s most popular horse races: The Kentucky Oaks, the Arkansas Derby, the Santa Anita Derby, and now, the Kentucky Derby.
Churchill Downs Bans Baffert
Apparently, Churchill Downs has similar doubts. On news of the initial positive drug tests on Medina Spirit, Churchill Downs announced they were banning Baffert from racing any horses at the Louisville, Kentucky track.
Until the full investigation into the allegations is concluded.
While some reports suggest that the track was premature with the banning, if it is merely for a couple of weeks while the split sample is examined, the move could be considered prudent.
Maryland racing authorities have agreed to allow Medina Spirit to compete in the May 15th running of the Preakness Stakes—the second jewel in the Triple Crown.
They have some conditions. Medina Spirit must have his blood tested prior to the race. He will be monitored before, during, and after the race and his performance and condition will be medically reviewed.
According to ESPN, Baffert has agreed to those terms.