News and Commentary

Medina Spirit Cleared For Preakness Stakes Race, Owner Announces Illegal Substance Found In Ointment Used On Horse
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - APRIL 29: Bob Baffert the trainer of Medina Spirit talks to the media during the training for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on April 29, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Medina Spirit, the horse that recently won the Kentucky Derby before failing an illegal drug test, was approved to compete in the Preakness Stakes race as trainer Bob Baffert announced that the illegal substance found in the horse’s blood after the Derby was included in an ointment used on the horse. 

On Sunday, Baffert said that after the Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, a corticosteroid banned above a certain level in racing.

Officials from Preakness Stakes said Tuesday that they will allow Medina Spirit to enter the race on Saturday, subject to more testing and monitoring. 

“We reached an agreement with Mr. Baffert and his lawyers that allows for additional testing, additional monitoring — essentially a watchlist to ensure the integrity of the sport leading up to the race,” Maryland Jockey Club lawyer Alan Rifkin said. “We’re very pleased to have that, and we appreciate Mr. Baffert’s patience and the way in which his lawyers went about it.”

ESPN reported, “Baffert’s attorney, Craig Robertson, wrote in his letter to Rifkin that detailed the agreement that Baffert ‘consents to the public release of this letter and all testing results.’”

Trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday that the horse was given the anti-fungal ointment Otomax, which includes betamethasone. 

The Courier Journal reported that the drug is legal when used as a therapeutic for horses, but betamethasone is illegal when discovered in a horse’s blood on the day of a race. 

In a statement, Baffert said that Medina Spirit had gotten dermatitis after the Santa Anita Derby on April 3, which led the trainer to have his veterinarian look at the horse. According to Baffert, the veterinarian recommended he use Otomax.

Baffert said, “The veterinary recommendation was to apply this ointment daily to give the horse relief, help heal the dermatitis and prevent it from spreading. My barn followed this recommendation and Medina Spirit was treated with Otomax once a day up until the day before the Kentucky Derby.”

Baffert said that he discovered Monday that Otomax includes betamethasone. 

“While we do not know definitively that this was the source of the alleged 21 picograms found in Medina Spirit’s post-race blood sample, and our investigation is continuing, I have been told by equine pharmacology experts that this could explain the test results,” Baffert said. “As such, I wanted to be forthright about this fact as soon as I learned of this information. … I intend to continue to investigate and I will continue to be transparent.”

As reported by The Daily Wire, Baffert denied any wrongdoing earlier in the week and said that his horse had not been drugged. 

“I never thought I’d have to be fighting for my reputation and this poor horse’s reputation. Because of the new regulations the regulators have put, they’re testing these horses at contaminated levels, and it’s been a horrible experience.” 

“It did not happen, and that’s the really seriously troubling part of it,” he added. “[We’re hiring] investigators, but sometimes you never find out. It’s just a tragedy what happened in this race.”

“We live in a new world now. These horses don’t live in a bubble,” he said. “They’re in an open farm. People are touching them. He went from the Derby to after the Derby, everybody’s out there touching them. I mean there’s so many ways these horses can get contaminated and when they’re testing at these really ridiculously low levels … I’ve been saying it for over a year now these are gonna get innocent people in trouble and this is what happened now.”

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