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Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tests positive for doping

Another Bob Baffert horse has failed a drug test.

John Velasquez aboard Medina Spirit (8) is congratulated by trainer Bob Baffert after winning the 147th Running of the Kentucky Derby on May 1, 2021 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Monday, May 10 update: Bob Baffert is blaming urine in the horse’s hay for the positive test. That’s certainly an excuse.

Update: 11:52 a.m. Churchill Downs has issued a statement suspending Bob Baffert from the track, and indicating second-place horse Mandaloun will be declared the winner of the 147th Kentucky Derby if the results are upheld on appeal.

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.

The sport of horse racing is dealing with a variety of doping issues, and once again Bob Baffert is involved. The long-time trainer announced on Sunday that following the Kentucky Derby, winner Medina Spirit tested positive for 21 picograms of the steroid betamethasone, which is double the legal limit in Kentucky racing.

Last year, the Baffert-trained horse Charlatan tested positive for lidocaine, resulting in being stripped of the win and a suspension. Chain of custody issues resulted in a restoration of the win, but Baffert was still fined $10,000.

In 2018, Triple Crown winner Justify qualified for the Kentucky Derby by winning the Santa Anita Derby, but had actually failed a drug test after that race. Because it took so long for the California Horse Racing Board to respond, nothing was done about it and he went on to join the immortal horses of all time.

Medina Spirit is expected to be favored at the Preakness this coming week, but the failed test will raise some questions. The Maryland Racing Commission is ultimately who decides who competes in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, May 15.

Baffert has won the only two Triple Crowns of the modern era of horse racing with American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018), winning a total of 15 Triple Crown races. But scandal has followed him throughout his career, particularly involving doping, and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission appears to be unafraid to take on one of the biggest names in the sport.

The New York Times last November said 29 Baffert horses have failed drug tests in his training career, in which he has earned $320,544,011 in 13,647 career starts.

If you’re wondering what happens to the winning tickets, don’t: The horse that’s declared the winner when the race is made official is still the one that gets paid. No win tickets for Mandaloun, the colt that finished second, will be upgraded or become winners because of this ruling.