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According to the Times, one of the horses to test positive is Charlatan, a 5-to-1 co-favorite in Kentucky Derby futures betting. Stablemate Gamine also reportedly tested positive.
According to the Times, both tested positive for lidocaine, a numbing agent with legitimate uses to suture wounds or determine a horse’s soundness for competition. Its use is regulated because it can mask lameness in an unsound horse, according to the report.
Win could nullify $300K win
Without mitigating circumstances, the use of lidocaine results in a 15-to-60 day suspension and a $500 to $1,000 fine for a first offense and could disqualify a horse from a competition and its purse, according to the Times. In this case, Charlatan reportedly tested positive after winning a division of the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park, which came with a $300,000 first-place prize.
Baffert provided a statement to the Courier-Journal.
"The rules of the Arkansas Racing Commission mandate confidentiality concerning any investigation into an alleged rule violation until there is a written decision of the Stewards,” the statement reads. “I am extremely disappointed that, in this instance, the Commission has not followed its own rules on confidentiality.
"I am hoping for an expedited investigation and look forward to being able to speak soon about any written decision of the Stewards, if and when it becomes necessary and I’m allowed to under the Commission’s confidentiality rules.”
Baffert has requested a second round of testing on his horses samples, as is his right, according to the Times.
Impact on Triple Crown
Baffert has trained five Kentucky Derby-winning horses and eyed Charlatan for a record sixth win at the Triple Crown race. The Kentucky Derby was moved from its traditional May running to Sept. 5 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Belmont Stakes is now scheduled to take its place as the leading leg of the Triple Crown on June 20. Charlatan is consistently listed among the favorites to win at Belmont.
Charlatan’s eligibility status for the Belmont Stakes and beyond is unclear at this point.
Baffert’s Triple Crown doping controversy
Baffert’s most recent Kentucky Derby winner Justify — the 2018 Triple Crown winner — failed a drug test at the Santa Anita Derby a month before running at Churchill Downs that year, testing positive for banned substance scopolamine, according to a 2019 report by the Times.
Justify should have been disqualified before the Kentucky Derby, but was allowed to compete in all three Triple Crown races as California racing officials took four months to complete an investigation and eventually dropped the inquiry, according to the report.
More scandal for embattled sport
Oaklawn’s owner Louis Cella vowed to avoid a repeat of 2018 and come up with a resolution prior to the Triple Crown kicking off this year.
“We will not have a situation like in California, where a horse ran in the Kentucky Derby after failing a drug test,” Cella told the Times.. “That was an embarrassment to the industry. We will push to have this cleared up by the Belmont Stakes.”
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