Bob Baffert may very well win in court again for this latest failed drug test, this time by Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, but his public crusade of denials and conspiracy theories is embarrassing.
His explanation Monday for the failed drug test? One of his staff members who was taking cough medicine urinated on hay in Medina Spirit’s barn, and the horse ate it.
That after he appeared on FOX News calling what is happening with Medina Spirit a product of “cancel culture”. So much for keeping politics out of sports.
If you call long-standing, fair laws in the state of Kentucky that govern horse racing “cancel culture”, then sure. Otherwise, these cries are horseshit.
The man has already trained two Triple Crown-winning horses, including the first in more than three decades, and countless other Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes winners without any legal proof to discredit those results. He is a legend. He is a Hall of Famer in the sport. Whatever the final verdict is on Medina Spirit, his legacy is secure in horse racing history.
To resort to this level of blame shifting should be beneath him. He knows and understands the testing protocols for horse racing.
Baffert had two high-profile horses test positive a year ago but had suspensions and sanctions in Arkansas dropped after winning in court. He will have that opportunity to challenge this positive test in Kentucky as well if needed.
And it will be a fair process decided by state law, a process that is essential to maintain the integrity of a sport that relies so heavily on betting for revenue.
In the meantime, Churchill Downs has rightfully suspended him from entering any horses at its track until the process is complete and promised to dethrone Medina Spirit as Derby champion if an appeal does not return different results.
If a mistake was made, or even if the evidence fails to meet the threshold for disqualification under the law, Medina Spirit will remain the Derby winner. For Bob Baffert to go on a public relations tour prematurely crying foul before the process completes is disappointing.
How did Medina Spirit fail a drug test?
For those unfamiliar with how drug testing works in horse racing, numbered post-race samples arrive in labs without identification of the horse, trainer or race.
For Baffert to claim he is a victim of “cancel culture” is laughable. For anyone to suggest these labs are targeting certain trainers is preposterous. The system in place makes it impossible.
What does Bob Baffert do now?
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will conduct an investigation. Bob Baffert and the owners of Medina Spirit have a right to request a test of a split sample. According to Churchill Downs, they intend to do so.
“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,” Churchill Downs officials said in a news release Sunday.
A split sample from Medina Spirit’s postrace blood sample will be tested. If the original results are confirmed, Baffert will have a chance to appeal.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said in a statement that it is also analyzing the test results, emphasizing “both the trainer and owner of the horse will be afforded due process, and opportunity to appeal.”
What did Medina Spirit test positive for?
Betamethasone is a corticosteroid, a man-made steroid that resembles cortisol, a natural hormone produced by the adrenal gland.
The drug suppresses inflammation. Corticosteroid drugs administered into joints can provide relief from discomfort for horses.
Baffert said a post-race test following Medina Spirit’s win had 21 picograms of betamethasone.
According to Kentucky Horse Racing Commission regulations, a second positive test, also known as a split sample, is required to disqualify Medina Spirit
What does this mean for Bob Baffert and the Preakness?
Medina Spirit was in a van headed from Churchill Downs to Pimlico in Baltimore Monday morning. Baffert says he has not been told if the colt will be allowed to run in the Preakness.
Pimlico moved the post position draw for the race from Monday to Tuesday at 4:00PM eastern time. No word on whether that scheduled change was related to Medina Spirit.