For the second time in three years, the winner of America’s most prestigious race may be disqualified.

Churchill officials notified winning trainer Bob Baffert that Medina Spirit tested positive for the substance Betamethasone in a post-race blood test following last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Betamethasone is a commonly used anti-inflammatory medication available in both topical and injectable forms. The trainer verified Medina Spirit tested positive for 21 picograms of the substance.

A pictogram is one-trillionth of a gram.

The KHRC released the following statement earlier Sunday:

“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. The connections of Medina Spirit have the right to request a test of a split sample and we understand they intend to do so. To be clear, if the findings are upheld, Medina Spirit’s results in the Kentucky Derby will be invalidated and Mandaloun will be declared the winner.

“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. Churchill Downs will not tolerate it.

“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. We will await the conclusion of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commissions’ investigation before taking further steps.”

Visibly upset at the news, Baffert held an impromptu meeting of available press at his barn at Churchill Downs Sunday morning. The Paulick Report shared the video on Twitter:

“Medina Spirit has never been treated with Betamethasone,” Baffert began, noting the stringent daily reporting protocols of his home base in California.

“Yesterday, I got the biggest gut punch in racing for something I didn’t do,” said Baffert. “It’s disturbing. It’s an injustice to the horse. There’s something going on in racing right now and it’s not right. I don’t feel embarrassed—I feel like I was robbed.”

The trainer vowed to fight the allegations “tooth and nail.” A split sample test was requested by Baffert and will be conducted before a final decision is made by the KHRC.

This would not be the first disqualification of the winner of America’s premier race, held May 1 under somewhat normal circumstances following September’s COVID-altered Derby won by Authentic.

The winner of the 2019 Kentucky Derby, Maximum Security was disqualified after the race for interference. The colt was ridden by Luis Saez, rider of fourth-place finisher Essential Quality in this year’s Derby.

This also would not be the first disqualification of a Kentucky Derby winner for violation of substance rules.

In 1968, Dancer’s Image was disqualified three days after the race following a positive test for the presence of Phenylbutasone, commonly known as “Bute.” That substance, then banned, is now permissible and commonly used in American racing.

The use of medications in horseracing is regulated by each one of the 38 jurisdictions that host the sport.

Baffert said his two Preakness Stakes entries, Medina Spirit and Concert Tour, will van Monday as planned to Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore.


The Maryland Jockey Club has announced it is reviewing the status of Medina Spirit for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in the American Crown:

“1/ST Racing and MJC (the Maryland Jockey Club) intend to review the relevant facts and information related to the reported medication positive as a result of the post-race blood sample testing completed by Churchill Downs following the 147th Kentucky Derby involving Medina Spirit trained by Bob Baffert. We are consulting with the Maryland Racing Commission and any decision regarding the entry [italics ours] of Medina Spirit in the 146th Preakness Stakes will be made after a review of the facts.”

Feature image: ©Coady Photography/Kentucky Derby