The trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit on Sunday said that after the race, his horse tested positive for betamethasone, a corticosteroid banned above a certain level in racing.
Bob Baffert, who appeared with his lawyer, Craig Robertson, for a press conference at Churchill Downs, said his team has been informed that Medina Spirit was found to have 21 picograms of the steroid betamethasone, double the legal threshold in Kentucky racing. He called the finding “shocking” because he says Medina Spirit has “never been treated with betamethasone.”
“Yesterday I got the biggest gut-punch in racing for something I didn’t do,” Baffert told reporters at Churchill Downs in Louisville. “It’s disturbing. It’s an injustice to the horse.”
“I don’t feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged,” said Baffert. “We’re going to show them everything. One thing about it in California, everything is documented every day what the horse gets. This horse was never treated with that. He’s a great horse, he doesn’t deserve this. He ran a gallant race.”
“I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I know everybody’s not out to get me, but there’s definitely something wrong,” Baffert said. “Why is it happening to me? There’s problems in racing, but it’s not Bob Baffert.”
He added: “This shouldn’t have happened. There’s a problem somewhere. It didn’t come from us. … I’m worried about our sport. 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.”
Medina Spirit has not yet been disqualified as the winner, Baffert said, adding that another sample is scheduled. “If an appeal is unsuccessful, Medina Spirit would be stripped of the Kentucky Derby crown as well as the winning prize money,” CNN reported.
Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby on May 1 by a half-length over Mandaloun. The win gave Baffert his seventh victory in the race, which set a record.
“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 said in a statement.
The trainer said Medina Spirit is still set to run in next Saturday’s Preakness, the second leg of the triple crown.
— Paulick Report (@paulickreport) May 9, 2021
Betamethasone “is the same drug that was found in the system of Gamine, another Baffert-trained horse who finished third in the Kentucky Oaks last September,” The Associated Press reported. The drug is an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid that is allowed in horse racing at a certain level, said the AP. While it is not banned, a horse must be off the drug within 14 days of racing.
Last month, Baffert won an appeals case before the Arkansas Racing Commission, which had suspended him for 15 days for a pair of positive drug tests involving two of his horses that won at Oaklawn Park on May 2, 2020. The horses tested positive for lidocaine, a painkiller, which Baffert said they were exposed to inadvertently.