Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert acknowledged in a press conference held at Churchill Downs on May 9 that Medina Spirit, winner of the 147th Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) on May 1, has tested positive for the anti-inflammatory medication betamethasone in his post-race sample. Churchill Downs/Coady Photography.

Medina Spirit Tests Positive for Betamethasone in Kentucky Derby post-race sample

By Alicia Hughes

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert acknowledged in a press conference held at Churchill Downs on May 9 that Medina Spirit, winner of the 147th Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) on May 1, has tested positive for the anti-inflammatory medication betamethasone in his post-race sample.

According to Baffert, the sample came back positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone, which is considered a Class C drug according to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. During the press conference, Baffert – who was accompanied by his lawyer Craig Robertson – repeatedly denied that Medina Spirit has ever been administered betamethasone and said he would launch his own internal investigation.

“We did not give it. He has never been treated with betamethasone. Yesterday I got the biggest gut punch in racing for something that I didn’t do,” Baffert said. “I don’t know what is going on in racing right now but there is something not right. I don’t feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged.

“We’re going to complete our own investigation, we’re going to be transparent with the racing commission, we’re going to show them everything. One thing about California is everything is documented every day what the horses get. This horse was never treated with that. He’s a great horse, he doesn’t deserve this. I’m going to fight it tooth and nail.”

Bethamethasone, a corticosteroid, is allowed in Kentucky as a therapeutic. However, state rules require at least a 14-day withdrawl time and any level of detection on race day is a violation. 

Baffert said he was going to request a split sample and that he also wanted DNA testing done on Medina Spirit. 

“We’re going to pull hair, I immediately demanded the state pull hair from him to make sure if he’s ever had it in his system, which he shouldn’t,” Baffert said of Medina Spirit.  “I know I’m the most scrutinized trainer and I have millions of eyes on me and I don’t’ have a problem with that.  The last thing I want to do is do something that would jeopardize the greatest two minutes in sports. This is terrible, but we have to deal with it now.”

Churchill Downs released a statement late Sunday morning that said in part “Given the seriousness of the alleged offense, Churchill Downs will immediately suspend Bob Baffert, the trainer of Medina Spirit, from entering any horses at Churchill Downs Racetrack. We will await the conclusion of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commissions’ investigation before taking further steps.

“If the findings are upheld, Medina Spirit’s results in the Kentucky Derby will be invalidated and (runner-up) Mandaloun will be declared the winner.”

Brad Cox, trainer of Kentucky Derby second-place finisher Mandaloun, reiterated on Sunday morning that there are no plans to run the colt back in the Preakness Stakes (G1).

Baffert made headlines last year for a number of medication positives, including champion female sprinter Gamine who tested positive for betamethasone following her third-place finish in the 2020 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and was subsequently disqualified to last. 

Both Gamine and stablemate Charlatan tested positive for lidocaine while running at Oaklawn Park last May and were initially disqualified from their victories. However, the Arkansas Racing Commission this past April overruled the stewards’ ruling and restored both victories on the grounds that level of lidocaine found was below performance enhancing and that they were the result of inadvertent contamination. 

“With Gamine we did treat her (before the Oaks). But this horse was not been treated with this,” Baffert said. “And so that’s the scary part. Just at a loss for words.”

Owned by Zedan Racing, Medina Spirit is still set to van to Baltimore on Monday to contest the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 15. The son of Protonico galloped at Churchill Downs Sunday morning shortly after stablemate and fellow Preakness contender Concert Tour turned in a five-furlong workout.

A statement from the Maryland Jockey Club released Sunday afternoon regarding whether Medina Spirit would be allowed to enter the Preakness Stakes said, “1/ST RACING and MJC intend to review the relevant facts and information relating to the reported medication positive as a result of the post-race blood sample testing completed by Churchill Downs following the 147th Kentucky Derby involving Medina Spirit trained by Bob Baffert. We are consulting with the Maryland Racing Commission and any decision regarding the entry of Medina Spirit in the 146thPreakness Stakes will be made after review of the facts.”

Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby in gate-to-wire fashion having come into the race off a second-place finish in the April 3 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1).

“These are serious accusations here, but we know we didn’t do it,” Baffert said. “I don’t know how it got in his system, if there was a mistake or something but we’re going to get to the bottom of this.”

Full statement from Churchill Downs:

Churchill Downs’ Statement in Response to Medina Spirit’s Post-Race Test Result Allegations 

“It is our understanding that Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit’s post-race blood sample indicated a violation of the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s equine medication protocols. The connections of Medina Spirit have the right to request a test of a split sample and we understand they intend to do so. To be clear, if the findings are upheld, Medina Spirit’s results in the Kentucky Derby will be invalidated and Mandaloun will be declared the winner.  

Failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of the horses and jockeys, the integrity of our sport and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby and all who participate. Churchill Downs will not tolerate it. Given the seriousness of the alleged offense, Churchill Downs will immediately suspend Bob Baffert, the trainer of Medina Spirit, from entering any horses at Churchill Downs Racetrack. We will await the conclusion of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commissions’ investigation before taking further steps.”