Hall of Fame Racehorse Trainer Bob Baffert Banned by Churchill Downs

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Bob Baffert is hoping that independent tests on his Kentucky Derby-winning horse will soon clear his name. Medina Spirit won the hugely popular horse race a month ago and, as standard practice, was submitted to a drug test. When the test returned an indication of steroids in the horse’s system, another test was administered, reaching the same conclusion. As new workups on the horse’s blood are being conducted, Baffert, a member of the US Racing Hall of Fame, can only wait, but will do it from a distance. He has been banned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) for two years, a decision that follows on the heels of a suspension he received recently by the New York Racing Association.

Churchill Downs Stands Firm

CDI issued the suspension this week, adding that it will remain through the 2023 Spring Meet at the Churchill Downs track in Kentucky. The order prevents the Hall of Famer or any trainer tied to his Bob Baffert Racing Stables company from entering horses in races held at any track owned by CDI. In issuing the suspension, CDI cited “repeated failures over the last year,” culminating in the failed drug test of Medina Spirit. Baffert, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, has had five medication violations in 13 months. CDI, at its discretion, can extend the suspension if it becomes aware of any other violations at any tracks across the US.

The fate of the Kentucky Derby outcome still hasn’t been decided. The horse may still be disqualified, but that decision is up to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC). It is reviewing the case, as well as a second drug test that also resulted in a positive hit for steroids. The KHRC doesn’t want to jump to any conclusions without a thorough investigation and, if it ultimately decides to disqualify Medina Spirit, the Run for the Roses crown will go to Mandaloun, who finished just behind the colt.

Baffert Stays in the Spotlight

Baffert has acknowledged that it’s possible Medina Spirit could have tested positive for the steroid betamethasone, but asserts that its presence could have only come from an ointment that had been applied to treat a skin rash the horse had developed. Medina Spirit was reportedly treated with Otomax, a veterinary drug that lists as its active ingredients gentamicin, clotrimazole and betamethasone valerate.

The KHRC has agreed to allow Medina Spirit’s blood and urine to be tested by an independent lab to determine if any other compounds that can support the claim are found. It could be a week to ten days before the results are available, and the commission isn’t likely to make a decision until then. Should it disqualify Medina Spirit, it would be only the second time in the history of the Kentucky Derby that a disqualification due to a failed drug test had been ordered.

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