Racing needs timely decision on Kentucky Derby drug case

This will be our last post on Bob Baffert for some time — if we have our way about it.

It never occurred to us when we began covering the potential disqualification of this year’s Kentucky Derby “winner” Medina Spirit on the heels of his post-race positive for the steroid betamethasone, that it was just the beginning of a long and winding road with twists at almost every turn.

Churchill Downs banned Medina Spirit trainer Bob Baffert for two years following the horse’s failed drug test mentioned above.

The New York Racing Association (NYRA,) who own and manage Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga racetracks, announced Baffert was banned from racing his horses at their tracks as well. Baffert took immediate offence and sued. There was some to-ing and fro-ing. Then the Judge ruled that Baffert had not been given due process. Case dismissed.

Rinse and repeat

We quote liberally from the excellent article by Eric Crawford, reporting for WDRB, Ch41 Louisville.

Open quote

“Bob Baffert has rights, just like everyone else. And the sport of horse racing has responsibilities — not only to afford Baffert due process and the opportunity to defend himself, but to adjudicate allegations of wrongdoing in a timely manner.

“So far, there hasn’t been much of any of that in the matter of Medina Spirit’s positive test for betamethasone, a banned race day substance in Kentucky, after the Kentucky Derby.

“With legal challenges, drug tests and now public posturing involved, this is going to take time. The result of the greatest two minutes in sports has now been in dispute for two months, and there’s no real indication of when a resolution will come.”

Crawford continues:

“Last fall, when Baffert’s filly Gamine was found to have had betamethasone in her post-Kentucky Oaks test after finishing third, it took nearly five months for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) to disqualify her and fine Baffert $1,500. And that was without a hearing, after Baffert waived his right to one, and agreed to the penalty. The stakes, now, are much higher.

“A court in Frankfort has ordered a post-race urine sample be tested for what Baffert’s team is hoping will be further evidence that the betamethasone in Medina Spirit’s system came from an ointment, not an injection.”

Yawn. When nothing else comes to mind, bring out the ointment. Or how about this? My staff had poppy seed bagels in the barn and . . . you know, ‘the dog ate my homework’ excuses of racehorse doping American style.

Crawford is right on when noting that it is up to the KHRC to disqualify Medina Spirit, and that process could drag on a bit. He also points out that lawsuits are inevitable. Naturally.

Read full article »

Dancer’s Image

Crawford reminds us, “In 1968, when Kentucky Derby first-place finisher Dancer’s Image was disqualified after a post-race drug test, the DQ came three days after the race. The lawsuits raged on for nearly four years.” That drug was bute.

Dancer’s Image was the first winner in the history of the Kentucky Derby to be disqualified. Post-race the horse tested positive for the illegal drug phenylbutazone. WHAS-TV Ch. 11.

Bute certainly gets around these days. It is as common to horses as aspirin is to humans. Bute can be administered as a paste that can be put directly in the back of the horse’s mouth (similar to paste wormer), powder that can be sprinkled on feed, pills that can be crushed, or it can be injected into a vein.


Our coverage of the Medina Spirit controversy has been pretty steady but not exhaustive. Who are we to think we are tired? The Paulick Report folks must be worn out. Check out their in-depth coverage of Baffert’s biggest doping drama in awhile at The Medina Spirit Saga. We say awhile. He has these messy doping situations on a pretty regular basis. So do others. There are many, many dopers in U.S. horse racing. Baffert has simply become its poster boy.

Updated 7/15/21, 7:20 pm EST


Featured Image: Medina Spirit/Charlie Riedel/AP

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