With More Positive Test Results, Baffert Gets Banned & Derby Win Is In Limbo

Written By Paul Bergeron on June 3, 2021

Kentucky Derby-winning horse Medina Spirit’s second split sample results proved positive according to trainer Bob Baffert’s attorney Craig Robertson.

A prohibited amount of anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone was found, as was the case following the Kentucky Derby on May 1.

“In response to the inquiries, this will acknowledge that the Medina Spirit split sample confirmed the finding of betamethasone at 25 picograms,” Robertson said in a statement.

“There is other testing that is being conducted, including DNA testing,” he continued. “We expect this additional testing to confirm that the presence of the betamethasone was from the topical ointment, Otomax, and not an injection. At the end of the day, we anticipate this case to be about the treatment of Medina Spirit’s skin rash with Otomax. We will have nothing further to say until the additional testing is complete.”

Churchill Downs already has said in a statement that should the split sample come back positive, Medina Spirit will be disqualified from the race. Mandaloun, who ran second, will be declared the winner.

That decision would not affect the horse betting public, who might be holding win tickets involving Mandaloun. It’s not likely that bettors who selected Mandaloun as the winner will receive their payouts should Medina Spirit actually be disqualified – which is highly likely – but a final ruling has yet to be made.

Churchill Downs also said it will bar Baffert from all of its racetracks for two years following the news of the test results.

Churchill Downs’ Media Relations representative Darren Rogers told Horse Racing Nation (HRN) on June 2 that the track is in a holding pattern with regards to the Derby results.

“At this time, Churchill Downs is awaiting official notification of the split sample results from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission,” Rogers said in a text message, HRN reported Wednesday.

An ongoing investigation

Clark Brewster, attorney for Medina Spirit’s owner Amr Zedan, told The New York Times that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission agreed to send the sample elsewhere to try to confirm Baffert’s theory that the positive was caused by a topical ointment.

Betamethasone is a corticosteroid that is often used therapeutically to assist with reducing inflammation in equine joints, although it is also present in some topical applications like Otomax.

The KHRC said Wednesday that it will make no comment until the conclusion of the investigation.

The Times on Wednesday initially reported the findings as Brewster confirmed that the University of California-Davis performed the split sample test, which was aimed at confirming or denying the original finding of Industrial Laboratories, according to The Paulick Report.

“The KHRC does not provide comment or updates on the status of ongoing investigations,” spokesperson Sherelle Roberts said in an emailed statement. “The KHRC values fairness and transparency, and will provide information to the media and public at the close of an investigation.”

Prior to Wednesday’s report, some said that Baffert has found a loophole to delay the process.

“He can drag his feet and all the stewards can do is exhort him to please select a laboratory so the split can go out,” Dr. Mary Scollay, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC), said. “But there’s no rule that says if you don’t select a lab within five business days you waive your right to the split or the commission can select from the approved laboratories. There’s no provision for that.”

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Bob Baffert’s legal problems are piling up

Some expect this delay will lead to a new regulation — to be known, at least informally, as the “Baffert Rule.”

Baffert has been suspended from racing at Churchill Downs and in New York, where the Belmont Stakes event is being run Saturday without him.

Baffert is still running horses in California. On Saturday, Country Grammer edged Royal Ship by a head to win the Hollywood Gold Cup, giving Baffert his record-tying eighth victory in the Grade 1 race at Santa Anita.

According to The Paulick Report, days after a group of four horseplayers filed suit against Baffert and Medina Spirit owner Zedan Racing over the expected disqualification of the horse from his Kentucky Derby win, Baffert has been named in two more similar federal lawsuits.

“Both follow a similar premise to the May 13 civil suit filed by horseplayers Michael Beychok, Justin Wunderler, Michael Meegan and Keith Mauer,” The Paulick Report writes. “One was filed May 24 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by bettor Jeffrey Kaufman, who accuses Baffert and Zedan Racing of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act due to the presence of a regulated substance (betamethasone) Baffert said he was informed was detected on the horse’s post-race tests.”

Kaufman’s suit alleges that Baffert’s history of drug positives establishes a pattern and that his assurances to the public in late 2020 that he intended to improve barn procedures were trusted by bettors.

Kaufman’s suit is also designed to be a class action on behalf of other bettors on the Kentucky Derby who would have won their bets and winnings had Medina Spirit been properly prohibited from competing in the {2021] Kentucky Derby or competing without the aid of an illegal drug, writes The Paulick Report.

Photo by Julio Cortez / Associated Press
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Paul Bergeron

Paul Bergeron is a freelance reporter based in Herndon, Va. His 30-year career includes positions in the sports department at daily newspapers, including The Washington Post; and association publications related to the apartment industry. Currently, he writes regularly for the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), commercial real estate firm CoStar and various industry blogs from his Thought Leadership Today platform on LinkedIn. He can be reached at [email protected]

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