Medina Spirt with Trainer Bob Baffert the morning after the Kentucky Derby. Coady Photography.

Split Sample Confirms Medina Spirit’s Betamethasone Positive

By Alicia Hughes

The presence of the corticosteroid betamethasone in the post-race sample of Kentucky Derby (G1) first-place finisher Medina Spirit has been confirmed by the split sample, W. Craig Robertson III, lawyer for trainer Bob Baffert, said in a statement on June 2.

The confirmed split sample was first reported by the New York Times, which quoted attorney Clark Brewster, who represents Medina Spirit owner Amr Zedan, saying the University of California-Davis performed the split sample test. A follow-up statement distributed to the media by Robertson on Wednesday acknowledged the split sample confirmed the presence of betamethasone at a level of 25 picograms per milliliter of blood or plasma.

“In response to the inquiries, this will acknowledge that the Medina Spirit split sample confirmed the finding of betamethasone at 25 picograms,” the statement read. “There is other testing that is being conducted, including DNA testing.  We expect this additional testing to confirm that the presence of the betamethasone was from the topical ointment, Otomax, and not an injection.  At the end of the day, we anticipate this case to be about the treatment of Medina Spirit’s skin rash with Otomax.  We will have nothing further to say until the additional testing is complete.”

Betamethasone, a Class C drug, 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. 

After initially stating that Medina Spirit had never been treated with the medication, Baffert released a statement two days later saying the colt had been treated with the ointment Otomax once a day after the colt developed a dermatitis on his hind end following his runner-up effort in the April 3 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1) and that he was informed on May 10 that betamethasone was one of the substances in the medication. 

When news of the positive first came down, Churchill Downs released a statement saying it was suspending Baffert from entering any horses at the track and that “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.”

Should Medina Spirit have his victory taken down as a result of the positive, he would join Dancer’s Image in 1968 as the only winners to be disqualified due to a failed post-race drug test. 

Garrett O’Rourke, general manager of Juddmonte, owner and breeder of Mandaloun, declined to comment on the split sample results when reached by TVG.

Sherelle Roberts, spokesperson for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said in a statement on Wednesday that “The KHRC does not provide comment or updates on the status of ongoing investigations. The KHRC values fairness and transparency, and will provide information to the media and public at the close of an investigation.”

In a text message to the New York Times, Brewster said the laboratory did not test the blood or urine sample for the presence of other compounds “which could prove the trace positive came from an inadvertent and materially inconsequential contamination sourced from a topical ointment used to treat Medina Spirit for a skin lesion on his hip.”

Medina Spirit most recently finished third as the favorite in the May 15 Preakness Stakes (G1). Two days after that race, the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) announced it was temporarily suspending Bob Baffert and any individuals employed by Baffert from entering horses in races and occupying stall space at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack.