The horse that won the 2021 Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test and now faces possible disqualification.
“Failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of the horses and jockeys, the integrity of our sport and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby and all who participate,” read a statement from Churchill Downs, the racetrack of the Kentucky Derby, released Sunday.
Medina Spirit won the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby, one of the world’s most prestigious horse races, on May 1.
Bob Baffert, Medina Spirit’s Hall of Fame racehorse trainer, announced the news of the failed drug test Sunday morning and denied any wrongdoing.
“I got the biggest gut punch in racing for something that I didn’t do,” Baffert said in a press conference.
This is the fifth horse trained by Baffert to have failed a drug test in just over 12 months, the Associated Press reported.
Baffert said a blood sample from Medina Spirit was found to have 21 picograms of the drug betamethasone, which is double the amount allowed by racing authorities. He denied that he or anyone else on his team had administered the drug to the horse.
“I know everybody is not out to get me, but there’s definitely something wrong. Why is it happening to me? You know, there’s problems in racing, but it’s not Bob Baffert,” said Baffert.
Betamethsaone, a corticosteroid, is the same drug that resulted in the disqualification of another Baffert-trained horse from the Kentucky Oaks in September.
Churchill Downs announced Sunday that it had suspended Baffert.
“Given the seriousness of the alleged offense, Churchill Downs will immediately suspend Bob Baffert, the trainer of Medina Spirit, from entering any horses at Churchill Downs Racetrack,” the track’s statement read.
Baffert, one of the most famous racehorse trainers of all time, also trained the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify.
A Kentucky Derby winner was last disqualified in 2019 over a foul. Maximum Security was disqualified for interference on the track, and Country House, the horse that crossed the finish line second, was declared the winner.
Last March, over two dozen people in the horse racing industry, including the trainer of Maximum Security, were indicted for a scheme of doping horses with performance-enhancing drugs.
The last time a Kentucky Derby winner was disqualified over a failed drug test was in 1968.
Further drug testing will be done on Medina Spirit’s blood; the original sample was split to allow multiple tests to be run. If another round of tests still show the presence of the drug, the trainer is allowed to appeal the results.
Churchill Downs, however, made sure to clarify in its statement that if Medina Spirit fails multiple tests, the horse will be disqualified.
“To be clear,” the statement reads, “if the findings are upheld, Medina Spirit’s results in the Kentucky Derby will be invalidated and Mandaloun will be declared the winner.”