Kentucky Derby winner fails drugs test

Monday 10 May, 2021
Derby Derby
Medina Spirit, here winning the Kentucky Derby under John Velazquez, could be stripped of the win.

Trainer Bob Baffert, who won a record-setting seventh Kentucky Derby with Medina Spirit this month, has confirmed that his victorious horse has failed a drugs test.

Baffert said on Sunday that a post-race sample provided by Medina Spirit had tested positive for 21 picograms of the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone, an amount that's over the legal limit in Kentucky racing.

Medina Spirit, ridden by jockey John Velazquez, had secured a half-length victory over Mandaloun in the 19-horse edition of one of the world's greatest horse races on May 1.

Churchill Downs said it had suspended Baffert from entering horses at its famed racetrack and added that if the positive test is upheld, Medina Spirit's results will be invalidated and Mandaloun will be declared the winner.

Baffert's camp were informed of the news by Kentucky officials on Saturday, but the 68-year-old denied giving the horse illegal substances and said the positive test was "the biggest gut punch in racing."

"I was totally shocked when I heard this news," Baffert told a news conference.

"I'm still trying to absorb it. I am the most scrutinised trainer. The last thing I want to do is something that would jeopardise the greatest sport," he said.

"This shouldn't have happened. There's a problem somewhere. It didn't come from us. It's such an injustice to the horse. I don't feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged."

A sample collected at the same time as the one that came back positive will now be tested to confirm the result.

Last month, Baffert successfully appealed against a 15-day suspension given to him by the Arkansas Racing Commission after two of his horses had tested positive for a banned substance.

Baffert said Medina Spirit had not yet been officially disqualified from the Derby and that he would launch his own investigation.

"I don't believe in conspiracy theories, but why is it happening to me?" said Baffert, who in 2015 trained American Pharoah to become the first horse since 1978 to win US thoroughbred racing's coveted Triple Crown. He also celebrated another Triple Crown in 2018 with Justify.

Horse racing in the United States has come under fire in recent years for the sport's widespread use of drugs, which has contributed to the high-profile deaths of horses at tracks around the country.

Animal rights group PETA said regulators should permanently ban Baffert, whose horses have failed five drug tests in a little more than a year.