Bob Baffert has vowed to fight ‘tooth and nail’ after it was revealed on Sunday that his Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit has returned a positive test for the anti-inflammatory drug Betamethasone, a banned raceday substance.
Medina Spirit, owned by Amir Zedan’s Zedan Racing Stables, handed the trainer a record-breaking seventh victory in the Kentucky Derby last Saturday, making all under jockey Johnny Velazquez for a half-length success over Mandaloun.
One week on and the horse now faces possible disqualification.
Baffert confirmed the news that the win now hangs under a dark cloud in a press conference at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning, at which he was accompanied by his attorney, W. Craig Robertson III.
“Yesterday I got a call from [assistant trainer] Jimmy Barnes,” a visibly shaken Baffert said, “and I got some horrible news that he had just been served by the Kentucky Horseracing Commission (KHRC) because Medina Spirit had tested positive for 21 picograms of Betamethasone.
“All I can tell you is that Betamethasone is a therapeutic medication, we did not give it to him – Medina Spirit has never been treated with it.”
The news comes during a rocky period for the Baffert barn that has featured four medication violations since May 2020. They include fellow stable stars Gamine and Charlatan, both of whom returned positive tests for Lidocaine at Oaklawn Park on May 2 2020. Gamine later tested positive for Betamethasone after running third in the Kentucky Oaks; she was disqualified and placed last and Baffert fined $1,500.
Baffert later successfully appealed the Lidocaine positives, blaming it on a personal pain-relief patch worn by Barnes while in close proximity to the horses.
On Sunday, the trainer maintained his innocence in this instance, insisting that Medina Spirit had never been treated with Betamethasone.
“It’s the biggest gut punch for something that I didn’t do,” he said. “It’s disturbing, it’s an injustice to the horse.
“I’m going to fight it tooth and nail. I owe it to the horse, I owe it to the owner and I owe it to our industry. Our industry needs to step up and do a better job – there’s something wrong right now. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but there is definitely something wrong – why is this happening to me? There are problems in racing but it’s not Bob Baffert.
“It’s just shocking. I know I’m the most scrutinised trainer out there and the last thing I would ever want to do is jeopardise the greatest two minutes in sport.”
A split sample test will be requested while the trainer also noted that he has arranged for DNA and hair follicle testing on Medina Spirit. He also took the opportunity to vent his frustrations at the accusations.
“I don’t know what’s going on in racing right now but it’s not right,” he said. “We are going to do our own investigation and we’re going to be transparent. We’re going to pull hair from him to make sure if he’s ever had it in his system, which he shouldn’t. Medina Spirit is a great horse, he doesn’t deserve this.
“I feel that this last 18 months, with what we’ve been through, I do not feel safe to train. How do I move forward from this knowing something like this could happen?
“I don’t know what is going on with the regulators. We’re [as trainers] sitting ducks and it’s getting worse, and it’s something that has to be addressed.
“I’m so proud of our body of work, and it hurts. This shouldn’t have happened. There’s a problem there and it’s not us.”