Churchill Downs has suspended Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert for two years after it was disclosed that the split sample for Medina Spirit after his Kentucky Derby (G1) win was confirmed with 25 picograms of the corticosteroid betamethasone, a legal therapeutic medication that is prohibited on race day in Kentucky.
It will be up to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to disqualify Medina Spirit from his Kentucky Derby victory.
Baffert was allowed to enter runners at Pimlico including Medina Spirit and Concert Tour in the Preakness Stakes (G1) where they finished third and ninth.
The New York Racing Association has suspended Baffert, preventing him from running horses at Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga pending the outcome of the KHRC investigation.
The two-year suspension by Churchill Downs would mean Baffert would not be allowed to have any starters in the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derby. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby a record seven times, but that number could be reduced to six in the coming months.
If the colt is indeed disqualified the winner will be the Brad Cox trained Mandaloun. The only other Kentucky Derby winner to be disqualified for a drug positive was Dancer’s Image in 1968.
Craig Robertson, the attorney representing Baffert released this statement:
“In response to the inquiries, this will acknowledge that the Medina Spirit split sample confirmed the finding of betamethasone at 25 picograms. There is other testing that is being conducted, including DNA testing.
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.”
Full statement from Churchill Downs:
“Churchill Downs Incorporated (“CDI”) announced today the suspension of Bob Baffert for two years effective immediately through the conclusion of the 2023 Spring Meet at Churchill Downs Racetrack. The suspension prohibits Baffert, or any trainer directly or indirectly employed by Bob Baffert Racing Stables, from entering horses in races or applying for stall occupancy at all CDI-owned racetracks. This decision follows the confirmation by attorneys representing Bob Baffert of the presence of betamethasone, a prohibited race-day substance, in Medina Spirit’s bloodstream on the day of the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby in violation of the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s equine medication protocols and CDI’s terms and conditions for racing.
“CDI has consistently advocated for strict medication regulations so that we can confidently ensure that horses are fit to race and the races are conducted fairly,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of CDI. “Reckless practices and substance violations that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated. Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby. Given these repeated failures over the last year, including the increasingly extraordinary explanations, we firmly believe that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our duty and responsibility.” CDI reserves the right to extend Baffert’s suspension if there are additional violations in any racing jurisdiction.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (“KHRC”) has the sole authority to disqualify Medina Spirt as the winner of Kentucky Derby 147. It is the understanding of CDI that the KHRC is pursuing the completion of its investigation of this matter in accordance with its rules and regulations.”