Bob Baffert: Did the legendary trainer drug his horse to win the Kentucky Derby?
On Saturday, May 1st, Bob Baffert’s horse Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby. The victory was short-lived, as Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test, putting the horse’s win in jeopardy. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is investigating the situation, and if the drug test’s findings are upheld, Medina Spirit’s win will be nullified.
The post-race drug test revealed that Medina Spirit had received doses of betamethasone, a steroid that reduces inflammation & pain. The drug has been used in other incidents to increase horse racing performance. Medina Spirit tested at 21 picograms of the substance, double the limit allowed in Kentucky racing.
Medina Spirit’s trainer, Bob Baffert, has denied any wrongdoing. Baffert is sixty-eight years old and arguably the best-known horse trainer in the world. He trained both the 2015 & 2018 winners of the Triple Crown. To date, Baffert’s horses have won seven Kentucky Derbies. When the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission finishes their investigation, that number could very well drop to six.
Baffert has wasted no time publicly speaking out on the incident. He insisted Medina Spirit was never treated with betamethasone and points to multiple potential causes for the failed drug test. He went on The Dan Patrick Show to claim one of Medina Spirit’s grooms urinated in the horse’s hay after consuming cough medicine. Notably, betamethasone isn’t a typical ingredient in cough medicine.
In a Fox News interview, Baffert blamed horse racing regulators, elaborating: “Because of the new regulations the regulators have put, they’re testing these horses at contaminated levels”. At the same time, Baffert insisted Medina Spirit has never been treated with betamethasone and the steroid is “a legal therapeutic medicine and the amount that was in it wouldn’t have any effect on the horse anyway”.
Despite his apparent shock, this isn’t the first time Bob Baffert has found himself in this position. Last September, in the Kentucky Oaks, Baffert’s horse Gamine tested positive for betamethasone after finishing third in the race. Just last month, Baffert won an appeal with the Arkansas Racing Commission for a case involving a pair of positive drug tests for his horses.
Baffert has been in this situation so often, in fact, that last year he caught the attention of The New York Times. In November, the paper reported that over the course of his four-decade career, twenty-nine of Baffert’s horses have failed drug tests.
Medina Spirit is supposed to be racing this coming Saturday in the Preakness Stakes. Bob Baffert is determined to go ahead with the race, even with investigations into Medina Spirit ongoing. Medina Spirit is on his way to Baltimore, but whether or not the horse will be allowed to run remains unclear.
A second drug test could take two or three weeks. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission likely won’t make any final decisions until that has been completed. Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby is held, has already said they will suspend Baffert’s participation in future races if Medina Spirit’s drug test results are upheld.
In an interview with Fox News, Baffert called Churchill Downs’s statement “pretty harsh” and implied the organization’s move to defend the integrity of horse racing was a sign of shifting cultural norms. He said, “This America is different. It was a cancel culture kind of thing, so they’re reviewing it.”
Medina Spirit is reportedly the fifth Baffert horse to fail a drug test within the past year. This time the trainer may very well face legitimate consequences. Medina Spirit tested at twice the legal limit for betamethasone. If a second test confirms those results, the horse’s Kentucky Derby win will be nullified.
What do you think? Should Medina Spirit keep the win? Should Baffert be allowed to enter into more races? Let us know in the comments!