Bob Baffert, the Hall of Fame trainer, has been suspended by Churchill Downs officials after it emerged Medina Spirit, the horse he trains that won the coveted race last week, failed a post-race drugs test.
Officials in Louisville, Ky., said that if the results were confirmed in a follow-up test, then Medina Spirit would be stripped of the win, Baffert would have to return the prize money, and the runner-up in the race, Mandaloun, would be declared the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner.
In the meantime, Baffert has been banned from entering horses in races at Churchill Downs for an indefinite period. Officials are waiting for results of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s investigation into the failed test before they decide on any further action.
If Medina Spirit is disqualified, Baffert and the colt will join Maximum Security and Dancer’s Image as the only horses to have their victories denied in the 147 year history of America’s greatest race.
— Joe Drape (@joedrape) May 9, 2021
Fifth Failed Test
The news of the failed test puts Baffert in the spotlight once again. The trainer has seen five of his horses fail tests in just over a year and comes at a time when the use of performance enhancing drugs in the sport has been recognised as a problem by authorities.
To combat this, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will come into effect on July 1 2022.
This will mean a board, overseen by the Federal Trade Commission, will decide upon the rules and penalties within the sport for doping, and that these penalties will be enforced by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.
Baffert Issues Denial
Despite the drugs test showing that Medina Spirit had traces of betamethasone in its system, a corticosteroid that is used to reduce pain and swelling in joints, Mr Baffert was adamant that neither he, nor anyone on his team, had administered any such drug to the horse.
“I was totally shocked when I heard this news,” stated Mr Baffert.
“I am the most scrutinized trainer. And I am OK with that. The last thing I want to do is something that would jeopardize the greatest sport. I’m worried about the sport. This is a pretty serious accusation. We’re going to get to the bottom of it. We didn’t do it.”
“There’s problems in racing, but it’s not Bob Baffert.”
30 Drugs Test Failures Over Four Decades
Baffert is widely regarded as one of the best trainers of all time in horse racing, but he is a divisive figure. Rivals point to the fact that his horses have been the subject of 30 drugs test failures over the last four decades.
After a number of lengthy investigation periods, and somewhat ineffectual fines and brief suspensions being issued following, many rivals now feel that Mr Baffert has cheated the system for many years.
Zero surprise. He’s a cheat. Ban him. https://t.co/duRbkwpotJ
— Mike Gannon (@gancom) May 9, 2021
Last year, another of Mr Baffert’s horses, Gamine, was found to have the same substance in its post-race drugs test after finishing third in the Kentucky Oaks. Gamine was disqualified, her owners had to give back the $120,000 prize money and Mr Baffert was fined $1,500.
The stakes are much higher for the owners of Medina Spirit, who pocketed the $1.8 million first prize. If the horse is disqualified, this would instead be awarded to the owners of Mandaloun.
If the horse is disqualified, then it will be only the third horse to have had the win stripped post-race following Maximum Security and Dancer’s Image.
Intending To Run
Despite the furore surrounding Medina Spirit’s failed drugs test, Mr Baffert was confident that the horse would be allowed to continue its quest to land the Triple Crown.
He said that he was still intending to run the horse in this coming weekend’s Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. However, officials in Baltimore have said that they would review the colt’s eligibility after they have reviewed the case in more detail.