Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit faces disqualification after second failed drug test

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The New York Times reported Wednesday a split sample of Medina Spirit’s drug test following the Kentucky Derby confirmed the presence of betamethasone, further jeopardizing the horse’s status as the winner of the Run for the Roses.

The New York Times’ Joe Drape reported lawyer Clark Brewster, who represents Medina Spirit owner Amr Zedan, said the laboratory at the University of California-Davis confirmed the presence of betamethasone, a corticosteroid.

While legal as a therapeutic aid for horses, betamethasone is illegal when found in the blood on race day because it’s considered a possible performance-enhancer.

Medina Spirit trainer Bob Baffert announced May 9 — eight days after the Kentucky Derby — that Medina Spirit had tested positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone.

Exercise rider Humberto Gomez takes Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness entrant Medina Spirit over the track during a training session ahead of the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Exercise rider Humberto Gomez takes Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness entrant Medina Spirit over the track during a training session ahead of the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Later that day, Churchill Downs announced Medina Spirit would be disqualified as the Kentucky Derby winner if a second test — called a “split sample” — came back positive. Runner-up Mandaloun, trained by Louisville native Brad Cox, would be declared the winner.

Tonya Abeln, vice president of communications for Churchill Downs, said “Churchill Downs is awaiting official notification of the split sample test results.”

Craig Robertson, Baffert’s lawyer, released a statement saying the split sample confirmed 25 picograms of betamethasone in Medina Spirit’s system.

“There is other testing that is being conducted, including DNA testing,” Robertson wrote. “We expect this additional testing to confirm that the presence of 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.”

Initially, Baffert claimed Medina Spirit never had been treated with betamethasone. On May 11, two days after his original statement, Baffert said he had used Otomax to treat dermatitis on Medina Spirit’s hind end. Otomax lists betamethasone as an ingredient.

According to the New York Times, Brewster said “the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has agreed to send the original blood and urine tests to an independent and accredited laboratory for analysis to determine whether the specimens contain other components proving the source to be the topical ointment.”

If that’s true, Churchill Downs likely would not make a ruling on Medina Spirit’s status as Kentucky Derby winner until the results of those tests are available.

Only two Kentucky Derby winners have been disqualified in the race’s 147-year history. In 2019, Maximum Security crossed the finish line first but was disqualified after stewards ruled he interfered with other horses on the second turn. In 1968, Dancer’s Image was disqualified after a post-race drug test found the illegal drug phenylbutazone.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit's second drug test confirmed