Kentucky Derby Winner Medina Spirit Fails Drug Test, Faces Disqualification

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Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit has tested positive for betamethasone, a corticosteroid, the horse’s trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday morning.

Medina Spirit has not yet been disqualified, Baffert said, pending another test. If that test is positive, Medina Spirit would become the third Derby winner ever to be disqualified. Baffert was credited with a record 7th Derby win for training Medina Spirit.

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In 2019, Maximum Security won the Kentucky Derby by 1 3/4 lengths but was subsequently placed 17th for interference with another horse. In 1968, Dancer’s Image won the Kentucky Derby, but the day after, officials reported that he failed a drug test. That set off a years-long court battle. Ultimately officials named second-place finisher Forward Pass as the Derby winner.

Baffert said he is still planning on running Medina Spirit in next Saturday’s Preakness, the second leg of the triple crown. The Triple Crown races, which include the Belmont Stakes, the Preakness and Kentucky Derby, have returned to their normal spring and early summer slots this year after a pandemic-related move to the fall in 2020.

Medina Spirit was flagged for having 21 picograms of the illegal substance in a post-race drug test. Baffert called that result “shocking” because he claims the horse has “never been treated with betamethasone.”

The drug is used in horse racing to control pain and inflammation. It also builds red blood cells, which are important for endurance and oxygen uptake.

“Yesterday I got the biggest gut-punch in racing for something I didn’t do,” Baffert told reporters at Churchill Downs in Louisville. “It’s disturbing. It’s an injustice to the horse.”

Another Baffert horse, Gamine, tested positive for betamethasone after last year’s Kentucky Oak

“I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I know everybody’s not out to get me, but there’s definitely something wrong,” Baffert said. “Why is it happening to me? There’s problems in racing, but it’s not Bob Baffert.”

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