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Medina Spirit, the Bob Baffert-trained horse that won the 2021 Kentucky Derby, has tested positive for a regulated drug, betamethasone, and his Derby win could be in jeopardy.
Baffert revealed the positive test at an impromptu news conference at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning, calling it "the biggest gut punch in racing."
Betamethasone is a Class C anti-inflammatory, and while it's not banned, it's regulated: a horse must be off the drug within 14 days of racing. Medina Spirit tested for more than twice the allowed amount.
Baffert claims innocence, vows to fight
Baffert continually claimed during the news conference that no one on his team gave Medina Spirit the drug. He said that he'll be fighting the test and will be sending Medina Spirit to the Preakness, which is being run in less than a week.
However, Baffert heavily implied that he believes he's being set up or targeted — by who or what he wouldn't say. Medina Spirit is the only horse that ran the Derby to test positive, which he implied was suspicious. Baffert also said that he "doesn't feel safe to train" knowing something like this could happen.
In a statement, Churchill Downs acknowledged the positive test and confirmed that Baffert intends to request a test of a split sample, which is when the horse's blood sample is sent to an independent lab and tested more extensively. The statement also laid out the consequences should Medina Spirit's test results be confirmed: the win will be invalidated and second place finisher Mandaloun will be declared the winner.
Additionally, Churchill Downs has suspended Baffert from entering any horses at the track. If the split sample results come back positive, Churchill Downs will be "taking further steps."
Not the first positive betamethasone test for Baffert
This is the second time in seven months that a Baffert horse has tested positive for betamethasone. Gamine tested positive for the same substance in Oct. 2020. Baffert offered an explanation for that and didn't deny that Gamine had been administered the drug.
Baffert also mentioned Justify, the horse he trained that won the Triple Crown in 2018. Justify tested positive for a regulated substance before he ran the Kentucky Derby, though it wasn't announced until later. The positive test was blamed on contaminated feed and dismissed, and it didn't affect Justify's eligibility.
Baffert used that positive test to again cast himself as the victim of some larger conspiracy, saying "It just seems odd, why am I the only trainer with these positives?"
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