The 2021 Kentucky Derby should have been a great celebration for Triple Crown trainer Bob Baffert. Baffert’s horse Medina Spirit proved to be much the best in an upset of the favorite, Essential Quality. The victory has now been marred by a positive test for illegal medication. While the horse racing world prepares for the 2021 Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Bob Baffert faces a possible suspension from horse racing.
Medina Spirit Tests Positive for Betamethasone
Horse racing winners are routinely tested following a winning performance for any illegal substances that have been banned by state racing commissions. Betamethasone is a steroid that is sometimes used to remove inflammation and pain in horses, allowing them to run when in less than perfect health.
In the test following the 2021 Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit was found to have 21 picograms of betamethasone. This substance is allowed for medical treatment in Kentucky, but it must clear the system of a horse 14 days prior to racing. If the test is correct, Medina Spirit received the banned steroid outside of the allowed period.
There is a likelihood that another test will be performed to confirm the results of the first. If positive, Medina Spirit stands to be just the second horse in history disqualified from a Kentucky Derby win for a medication violation.
Bob Baffert’s History with Illegal Medications
Upon being notified of the positive test, Bob Baffert was quick to hold a press conference in which he denied the allegations of doping. Initially, Baffert offered no plausible explanation for the drugs in Medina Spirit’s sample. He instead chose to call himself the “face of the sport” while seeming to be insulted at accusations.
Critics of Baffert were quick to point out that this is not the first time a horse in the trainer’s care has tested positive for illegal medications. In fact, Gamine tested positive for the same drug last fall after winning the Kentucky Oaks. The horse was disqualified and Baffert was forced to pay a $1,500 fine. Some believe that was far less than the trainer deserved.
The most glaring issue in Baffert’s recent past could be the case of Justify. In 2018, Justify became just the 13th horse to win the legendary Triple Crown. The win gave Baffert his second Triple Crown victory in a period of four years. He also trained American Pharoah to a win in the series in 2015. It was revealed that prior to competing in the Kentucky Derby, Justify had tested positive for a banned medication in the Santa Anita Derby.
At the time, Baffert blamed the failed test on environmental contamination. He was able to get the agreement of the stewards in California, and the issue disappeared. Still, many feel that Baffert has stained the legacy of the Triple Crown and horse racing in general with multiple bad tests.
Baffert’s critics have been quick to call for his dismissal from horse racing. He has maintained his innocence. In the meantime, the affair is potentially damaging for a sport that is constantly in the cross-hairs of animal rights activists.
Baffert Claims “Cancel Culture” is to Blame – Skips Preakness
Bob Baffert announced after the test that he would not be going with Medina Spirit to the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. The Preakness Stakes is the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Baffert stated that he would allow his assistant trainer to take the lead. His reasoning was that he did not want to be a distraction.
Baffert made several excuses for the bad test. Among the most bizarre what that he was a victim of the “cancel culture” movement. Baffert then claimed that someone must have given the horse medication without his knowledge or consent. His most recent claim as this article was being written was that the medication had been present in a treatment the horse was receiving for a skin rash.
The excuses did little to sway the opinions of racing officials in Kentucky. Churchill Downs immediately suspended Baffert and banned him from running horses at the track. According to published reports, officials in Maryland were also considering banning Baffert from the Preakness.
What Happens Next?
Bob Baffert retained the services of an attorney in the wake of Medina Spirit’s test results. The attorney announced an intention to file an order that would prevent Medina Spirit from being banned from the Preakness.
In Kentucky, the results of a second test will confirm or rule out the use of illegal medications. If the second test is positive, Medina Spirit would be officially disqualified. Second-place finisher Mandaloun would be elevated to the top spot. The prize money for the Kentucky Derby would be forfeited by the owners of Medina Spirit and given to the owners of Mandaloun.
The betting results, however, would remain the same. Bettors that wagered on Mandaloun to win would not be able to claim a winning bet since the betting pool has been paid and closed.
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