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Kentucky Derby Faces Unprecedented Scandal as Rags-to-Riches Winner Medina Spirit Comes in Way Over Allowed Limit in Substance Test

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Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit has tested positive for a banned substance but his trainer is fighting the allegation.

Medina Spirit, whose rags-to-riches story captivated the country, showed 21 picograms of the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone in a post-race urine test, which is above Kentucky’s limit of 10 picograms per milliliter, according to the Racing Post.

Trainer Bob Baffert pushed back against the finding.

Baffert demanded hair testing plus DNA analysis of the positive test sample and said Medina Spirit was never treated with the drug.

“This is the biggest gut-punch I’ve had in racing and it’s for something I didn’t do,” Baffert told reporters, according to the Racing Post. “It’s an injustice. I don’t know what’s going on in racing now but it’s not right.


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“I cannot believe that I’m here,” he said. “I don’t feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged. We’re going to do a complete investigation. He’s a great horse and he doesn’t deserve this.”

Churchill Downs, the track that hosts the Kentucky Derby, issued a statement that said if the test results are upheld, the race will have a different winner.

“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,” the track said in a statement, according to the Racing Post.

The statement said Mandaloun, the horse that finished behind Medina Spirit, could ultimately be the winner.

Do you think Medina Spirit’s victory will be taken away?

“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,” Churchill Downs said.

“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,” the statement said.

“Given the seriousness of the alleged offence, Churchill Downs will immediately suspend Bob Baffert from entering any horses [here]. We will await the conclusion of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commissions’ investigation before taking further steps,” the statement said.

Former President Donald Trump weighed in on the incident.

“So now even our Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, is a junky. This is emblematic of what is happening to our Country. The whole world is laughing at us as we go to hell on our Borders, our fake Presidential Election, and everywhere else!” Trump said in a statement on his website.


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Regardless of the eventual outcome of the race, the situation is likely to mark a major scandal for horse racing. Either its most most famous event has been marred by illicit drug use, or its drug-screening procedures are leading to false accusations. Neither results will help the sport’s image.

Prior to this incident, Baffert has had several positive tests for horses he has trained. But he said Sunday that he ran a clean stable and is, in this case, a victim.

“There’s definitely something going on – why is this happening to me?” he said. “There are problems in racing but it’s not Bob Baffert. We’re going to fight this,” he said, according to the Racing Post.

“I know I’m the most scrutinized trainer and have millions of eyes on me – I don’t have a problem with that. The last thing I want to do is jeopardize the greatest two minutes in sport. This is terrible but we have to deal with it now,” he said.

“I’m not going to speculate and I have no idea where it came from. We’re aware of being extra careful – being clean, washing our hands – so for this to happen at the biggest day, this really hurts. I don’t know if there’s a problem somewhere but it didn’t come from us,” he said.

The last time a Derby winner was disqualified for medication was in 1968, when Dancer’s Image had his victory taken away, according to CNN.

In 2019, the original winner, Maximum Security, was disqualified for interference. The second-place horse, Country House, was declared the winner.

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