Medina Spirit Fails Post-Kentucky Derby Drug Test

An alarming discovery with worrying implications

2021 Kentucky Derby
Jockey John Velazquez riding Medina Spirit (C) in action, leading during race at Churchill Downs.
Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Last weekend’s Kentucky Derby victory for Medina Spirit seemed to be a triumph for trainer Bob Baffert, who brought his total of wins in the race to a record-setting 7. A lot can change in a week, however, and this weekend brings news that throws that victory into question and sparks controversy around the nature of Medina Spirit’s performance. The New York Times reports that Medina Spirit failed a drug test conducted after the race.

The report, by Joe Drape, notes that the horse tested positive for betamethasone. In horses, betamethasone is generally injected into joints to reduce pain. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission considers it to be a Class C drug; according to the Courier Journal‘s report on the case, Medina Spirit was found to have 21 picograms of it in his system. That is twice the legal limit in the state of Kentucky, according to The Athletic.

The Athletic’s report also notes that Baffert has denied any knowledge of how the substance got there. “Don’t know how it got in his system,” Baffert said. “Is it a mistake or something? We’re going to get to the bottom of it.”

As the Times notes, this is not the first time a horse trained by Baffert has come under scrutiny. Drape cites “30 drug tests failed by [Baffert’s] horses over four decades, including five in a little more than a year.” It’s worth mentioning that this does not change the Kentucky Derby results as of yet — a split sample is required to for confirmation, and Baffert can also appeal the findings. However, a disqualification would ultimately lead to Medina Spirit losing both title and winnings.

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