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After a second drug test of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit returned positive for the restricted substance betamethasone, Churchill Downs has suspended trainer Bob Baffert for two years.
It made the announcement Wednesday afternoon following reports earlier Wednesday of the second positive test. Baffert's ban extends through the 2023 spring season at Churchill Downs, meaning Baffert and any trainers affiliated with Bob Baffert Racing Stables are barred from the next two Kentucky Derbies.
CDI: Baffert's 'reckless practices ... will not be tolerated'
Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen cited Baffert's "repeated failures" in announcing the ban.
“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," Carstanjen said, per the statement. "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.”
According to the statement, Churchill Downs reserves the right to extend Baffert's ban if violations surface in other racing jurisdictions.
Decision to disqualify Medina Spirit's Derby win still pending
Medina Spirit has not yet been disqualified from its Kentucky Derby victory. According to Churchill Downs, that decision lies with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and remains pending.
"The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (“KHRC”) has the sole authority to disqualify Medina Spirt as the winner of Kentucky Derby 147," the statement continues. "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."
Baffert's decorated, tainted record
Baffert is thoroughbred racing's most decorated trainer, having trained seven Kentucky Derby-winning horses including Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify. He also has a well-established history of medical violations, with 29 reported failed drug tests on his record prior to Medina Spirit.
Baffert initially denied that betamethasone was used improperly on Medina Spirit. He blamed "cancel culture" and told a story about another horse suggesting that a horse could return a positive test by eating hay tainted by human urine. Days later, Baffert admitted that he treated Medina Spirit with an ointment containing betamethasone daily leading up to the Kentucky Derby.
Medina's second test result announced Wednesday is called a split sample and is used to confirm the initial positive test. Betamethasone is considered a performance enhancer. Its use is prohibited in the 14 days leading up to a race.
Baffert already banned from Belmont
Following the first positive test, the New York Racing Association announced that Baffert was banned from entering or stalling horses at any of its tracks. The NYRA oversees Belmont Park, which hosts the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of horse racing's Triple Crown. It also runs the Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack, meaning Baffert is prohibited from entering horses in other lucrative competitions at New York tracks.
Baffert's NYRA suspension was initially deemed indefinite as the organization waited for the results of Medina Spirit's split sample. The NYRA announced that it planned to make a final determination of his ban based on the Medina Spirit investigation.
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