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Medina Spirit, the horse that won the Kentucky Derby earlier in May, failed a post-race drug test, raising questions about its Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert who has previously been accused by rivals of cheating,
The horse, which won the race on May 1, tested positive for the drug betamethasone, an injectable corticosteroid that is used to reduce pain and swelling in joints, The New York Times reported.
Baffert denied that he or anyone on his team had administered the drug at a news conference Sunday.
“I was totally shocked when I heard this news,” Baffert said. “I’m still trying to absorb it. I am the most scrutinized trainer. And I am okay with that. The last thing I want to do is something that would jeopardize the greatest sport.”
Baffert on Sunday at the news conference with his lawyer said the horse tested positive for 21 picograms of the steroid — double the permitted level of the substance, according to ESPN.
He said he was “worried” about the sport.
“This is a pretty serious accusation,” Baffert said. “We’re doing to get to the bottom of it. We didn’t do it.”
If a subsequent test confirms that the drug was present in the horse, Medina Spirit will be stripped of the title. Churchill Downs on Sunday announced it had suspended Baffert.
“Churchill Downs will not tolerate it,” the organization said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “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.
“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,” the organization said.
Medina Spirit’s win gave Baffert seven Derby wins — the record for most Derby wins of all time, surpassing the record set by Ben Jones for six races won from 1938 to 1952. As The Times reported, other trainers have in the past accused Baffert of cheating.
Over the past 40 years, Baffert’s horses have failed 30 drug tests with five failures occurring in just over a year, according to the Times.
Baffert last month won an appeal before the Arkansas Racing Commission after it suspended him for 15 days after two of his horses tested positive for the painkiller lidocaine, ESPN reported.
Baffert has denied wrongdoing and blamed positive tests on environmental issues and human error, according to the Times.