In a statement released on Tuesday, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said the positive drug test that came back on Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Medina Spirit may have been caused by using a anti-fungal medication called Otomax to treat dermatitis.
Medina Spirit tested positive after his victory in the Kentucky Derby (G1) for having 21 picograms of betamethasone, a commonly used corticosteroid that is effective at reducing pain and inflammation in joints. It is a legal therapeutic drug but not allowed to be in a horses’ system on race day. The recommended withdrawal time is 14 days.
Baffert announced the positive on Sunday morning after rumors started floating around Churchill Downs on Saturday night. A split sample was sent for testing and those results have not been determined.
“I got the biggest gut punch in racing for something that I didn’t do,” Baffert said on Sunday morning. “It’s disturbing. It’s an injustice to the horse. I don’t know what’s going on in racing right now, but there’s something not right. I don’t feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged.”
“I am not a conspiracy theorist,” Baffert added. “I know everybody is not out to get me, but there is definitely something wrong. Why is it happening to me? There’s problems in racing, but it’s not Bob Baffert.”
Otomax Contains Betamethasone
At FarmVet.com a 30 Gm tube of Otomax costs $60.99. The description states, “Otomax ointment by Merck is a treatment for ear infections due to bacteria or yeast. It is labeled for use in dogs, but veterinarians will frequently prescribe it for cats, horses, and other animals as well. Otomax contains three separate medicines – gentamicin, betamethasone, and clotrimazole, and thus can be used for many different types of ear infection.”
Trainer Graham Motion weighs in on Otomax:
It’s a great medication for my dogs ears.
— GrahamMotion (@GrahamMotion) May 11, 2021
On Tuesday Baffert released the following statement through his attorney Craig Robertson.
On May 8, 2021, I was informed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that Medina Spirit allegedly tested positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone. On May 9, 2021, I held a press conference in which I stated that I intended to thoroughly investigate how this could have happened and that I would be completely transparent throughout the process. I immediately began that investigation, which has resulted in me learning of a possible source for the betamethasone, and now, as promised, I want to be forthright about what I have learned.
Following the Santa Anita Derby, Medina Spirit developed dermatitis on his hind end. I had him checked out by my veterinarian who recommended the use of an anti-fungal ointment called Otomax. 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. Yesterday, I was informed that one of the substances in Otomax is 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. As such, I wanted to be forthright about this fact as soon as I learned of this information.
As I have stated, my investigation is continuing and we do not know for sure if this ointment was the cause of the test results, or if the test results are even accurate, as they have yet to be confirmed by the split sample. However, again, I have been told that a finding of a small amount, such as 21 picograms, could be consistent with application of this type of ointment. I intend to continue to investigate and I will continue to be transparent.
In the meantime, I want to reiterate two points I made when this matter initially came to light. First, I had no knowledge of how betamethasone could have possibly found its way into Medina Spirit (until now) and this has never been a case of attempting to game the system or get an unfair advantage. Second, horse racing must address its regulatory problem when it comes to substances which can innocuously find their way into a horse’s system at the picogram (which is a trillionth of a gram) level. Medina Spirit earned his Kentucky Derby win and my pharmacologists have told me that 21 picograms of betamethasone would have had no effect on the outcome of the race. Medina Spirit is a deserved champion and I will continue to fight for him.