US racing has been rocked with news that last week’s Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit has failed a drugs test.
The colt is facing disqualification after anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone was detected over the legal limit in Kentucky racing.
Medina Spirit had given 68-year-old trainer Bob Baffert a record seventh Kentucky Derby win.
US racing has been stunned after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a drugs test
Trainer Bob Baffert said he is ‘totally shocked’ by the findings, which he called a ‘gut punch’
Baffert-trained horses have been involved in a string of positive tests in the last year but insisted he is innocent of any wrongdoing after announcing Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit has tested positive for 21 picograms of the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone.
The Hall of Fame trainer said the findings – which are above the permitted raceday level of 10 picograms in Kentucky – were a ‘gut punch’.
Baffert said: ‘I was totally shocked when I heard this news. I am the most scrutinised trainer. The last thing I want to do is something that would jeopardize the greatest sport.
‘All I can tell you is that betamethasone, even though it’s an allowed drug, a therapeutic medication, we did not give it, my veterinarian or anyone here.
‘Medina Spirit has never been treated with betamethasone, (and) I cannot believe that I’m here before you guys. I never thought I’d be here. Yesterday I got the biggest gut punch I’ve had in racing, for something that I didn’t do, and it’s really disturbing – it’s an injustice to the horse.
The horse tested over the limit for the drug betamethasone, and now faces disqualification
Baffert (right) handing the Derby winners trophy to Medina Spirit jockey John Velazquez (left)
‘I don’t know what’s going on in racing right now, but something’s not right. I don’t feel embarrassed, I feel like I was robbed.
‘We are going to do our own investigation – we are going to be transparent with the racing commission, like we have always been. We are going to show them everything – and one thing about California, everything is documented every day, what the horses get.
‘This horse was never treated with that, and he’s a great horse, he doesn’t deserve this – he ran a gallant race.’
Baffert added: ‘I’m going to fight it tooth and nail, because I owe it to the horse; I owe it to the owner and I owe it to our industry.
‘I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I know everybody is not out to get me, but there is definitely something wrong. Why is it happening to me?’
Racing officials said Mandaloun (left) would be promoted to winner if the findings are upheld
Baffert added: ‘We know we didn’t do it, and that’s the thing. We didn’t have anything to do with it. I don’t know how it got in his system, if it’s in his system or was there a mistake – we are going to get to the bottom of it.’
Ridden by John Velazquez, Medina Spirit made all in the Churchill Downs showpiece to beat Mandaloun by half a length.
Officials at Churchill Downs said Baffert would be suspended from making entries at the track and that, if the findings are upheld, Mandaloun would be promoted to first place.
A statement read: ‘It is our understanding that Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit’s post-race blood sample indicated a violation of the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s equine medication protocols.
‘The connections of Medina Spirit have the right to request a test of a split sample, and we understand they intend to do so. To be clear, if the findings are upheld, Medina Spirit’s results in the Kentucky Derby will be invalidated and Mandaloun will be declared the winner.
‘Failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of the horses and jockeys, the integrity of our sport and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby and all who participate.
Baffert has been immediately suspended from entering any more horses at Churchill Downs
‘Churchill Downs will not tolerate it. Given the seriousness of the alleged offence, Churchill Downs will immediately suspend Bob Baffert, the trainer of Medina Spirit, from entering any horses at Churchill Downs Racetrack. We will await the conclusion of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s investigation before taking further steps.’
The positive test was seized upon by US animal rights and welfare groups.
Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action, said: ‘The latest doping scandal in U.S. horse racing underscores the need for swift implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act that will address inconsistencies in drug testing and create a uniform national standard of rules and regulations in the sport.
‘If further investigation finds Medina Spirit legitimately tested positive for illegal drugs at the Kentucky Derby, then racing authorities should throw the book at those found guilty of violating the rules and punish them to the fullest extent of the law.
‘American horse racing will be held to a higher standard – there’s no excuse for rigging the ‘fastest two minutes in sports,’ especially at the expense of the horse’s well-being.’