Medina Spirit's positive test confirmed as Derby disqualification looms

Alex Butler & Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Medina Spirit received a second positive test for the banned steroid betamethasone, which puts the colt's victory from the 2021 Kentucky Derby in further jeopardy. File Photo by Jason Szenes/UPI
Medina Spirit received a second positive test for the banned steroid betamethasone, which puts the colt's victory from the 2021 Kentucky Derby in further jeopardy. File Photo by Jason Szenes/UPI | License Photo

June 2 (UPI) -- Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit edged another length closer to a rare disqualification Wednesday when lawyers confirmed that a second sample taken from the colt revealed the presence of a banned steroid.

Craig Robertson, an attorney who represents Medina Spirit trainer Bob Baffert, confirmed the positive test in a statement to UPI.


"In response to the inquiries, this will acknowledge that the Medina Spirit split sample confirmed the finding of betamethasone at 25 picograms," Robertson said. "There is other testing that is being conducted, including DNA testing."

The colt won the Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test, which found the excessive presence of the banned substance.

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Robertson said additional testing is being conducted on samples from the colt, and that he expects results to confirm the substance was from a tropical ointment and not from an injection.

The finding shifts the disciplinary process to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which presumably will consider disqualifying Medina Spirit from the Derby victory, setting in motion appeals and potential court action that could drag on for years.

Churchill Downs promptly announced Wednesday it has suspended Baffert through the conclusion of its 2023 fall meeting.

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Unless that ban is stayed during hearings and appeals, that would prevent Baffert or any of his staff from stabling horses at Churchill Downs or running them at that track.

Mandaloun, who finished second in the Derby, could be named the winner if Medina Spirit is disqualified. Dancer's Image, the winner of the 1968 Derby, is the only other horse to be disqualified because of a failed drug test in the event's 147-year history.

In 2019, race officials disqualified Derby winner Maximum Security and placed the horse 17th due to interference.

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Clark Brewster, a lawyer who represents Medina Spirit owner Amr Zedan, told the New York Times and CNBC on Wednesday that the laboratory that examined the colt did not test its blood or urine for the presence of other compounds.

Brewster said those compounds could "prove the trace positive came from an inadvertent and materially inconsequential contamination sourced from a topical ointment" used to treat a skin lesion.

Horse racing officials are allowing to have another lab analyze a third sample from Medina Spirit to determine the source of the betamethasone.

"We expect this additional testing to confirm that the presence of the betamethasone was from the topical ointment Otomax and not an injection," Robertson said. "At the end of the day, we anticipate this case to be about the treatment of Medina Spirit's skin rash with Otomax.


"We will have nothing further to say until the additional testing is complete."

Betamethasone is a listed ingredient in Otomax.

Baffert was suspended from Churchill Downs Racetrack, but Medina Spirit was allowed to run in the Preakness Stakes two weeks after the Derby.

The Belmont Stakes, the final leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, is Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Medina Spirit has been banned for the race after Baffert was suspended by the New York Racing Association. Essential Quality and Preakness winner Rombauer are among the favorites to win the Belmont.

Highlights of the 2021 Kentucky Derby

Jockey John Velazquez (L) and trainer Bob Baffert celebrate after their horse, Medina Spirit, won the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

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