The 2021 Kentucky Derby victory of Medina Spirit has been scratched from the record books after the horse gave a positive drugs test.
A lengthy investigation has confirmed that the three-year-old’s disqualification would stand, and so the runner-up – Mandaloun – has now been anointed as the race’s winner. A post on the Kentucky Derby’s official social media channels congratulated the horse’s trainer, Brad Cox, and the winning jockey Florent Geroux.
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) February 21, 2022
Medina Spirit was, at the time at least, trainer Bob Baffert’s seventh Kentucky Derby champion – a record that saw the hall of famer surpass Ben A. Jones as the most decorated trainer in the race’s history.
However, the horse subsequently failed a drugs test at the Churchill Downs track, with 21 picograms of betamethasone – a man-made steroid that is considered a performance enhancer due to its similar characteristics to that of the hormone Cortisol.
Betamethasone is also used in anti-inflammatory drugs, and they can legally be used up to 14 days before a race and in a limited dosage. Baffert has claimed that he used an ointment containing the stimulant to treat a dose of dermatitis in the horse – an argument that has been thrown out by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
Tragically, Medina Spirit died in December following a routine workout, and while Baffert claimed the horse had suffered a cardiac arrest, a necropsy earlier in February did not reveal a definitive cause of death.
Baffert Suspended Again
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has gone to town on Baffert, who continues to court controversy after being suspended from the sport on a number of occasions already.
This time, he has been suspended from entering his horses into all races for a period of 90 days from March 8 to June 5 – meaning that he will not be permitted to enter the 2022 Kentucky Derby, which is scheduled for May 7. The regulator has ordered a specific two-year ban on Baffert entering runners into the Kentucky Derby.
The trainer has also been fined $7,500 (around £5,500), but he has maintained his innocence throughout and his attorney has confirmed that an immediate appeal will be lodged.
Baffert has since come out and said that he is ‘very disappointed in the ruling’ that, in his opinion, ‘runs contrary to the scientifically proven facts.’ He can at least console himself with the fact that the $7.5k fine won’t make much of a dent in his estimated career earnings of a cool $330 million.
In that decorated career, Baffert has seen at least 30 of his horses sanctioned after failing drugs tests – whether that’s through the appearance of betamethasone in samples or over-dosing of allowed substances such as phenylbutazone. He has been charged by the Kentucky authorities, the New York Racing Association and a number of other regulators in the sport, but he keeps coming back and, for the most part, getting away with it.