Officials at Churchill Downs have announced that trainer Bob Baffert will be suspended immediately for a period of two years.
The suspension comes in the aftermath of reports earlier today that the split-sample lab test of his current Kentucky Derby 147-winning horse, Medina Spirit, again tested positive by a second lab for the presence of Betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory substance banned on raceday at Churchill Downs.
In a statement, Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen explained the Baffert suspension:
“CDI has consistently advocated for strict medication regulations so that we can confidently ensure that horses are fit to race and the races are conducted fairly. Reckless practices and substance violations that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated.
“Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred [sic] racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby. Given these repeated failures over the last year, including the increasingly extraordinary explanations, we firmly believe that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our duty and responsibility.”
The suspension means neither Baffert, nor any trainer employed by Baffert Racing Stables, can stable or enter horses at any of the racetracks owned by Churchill Downs, Inc.
At the time the first sample tested positive for Betamethasone, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) officials stated Medina Spirit would be disqualified if the split-sample returned positive and Brad Cox-trained runner-up Mandaloun installed as the Derby winner.
The KHRC is pursuing a separate investigation.
It has been reported that connections for Medina Spirit have requested DNA testing to confirm the presence of compounds that can be traced directly to the topical ointment Otomax. It has been claimed by Baffert that the ointment was used by the horse’s veterinarian to treat dermatitis on the right rear of the horse’s skin and that the Betamethasone in the ointment did not sufficiently metabolize prior to the Kentucky Derby, nor contribute to his winning performance. Trainers are responsible for all medication violations irrespective of personal involvement.
Baffert is currently suspended in New York and was prohibited from entering horses in this Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.