Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit fails drug test, trainer suspended

The horse that won the 2021 Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit, has failed a drug test and its Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has been indefinitely suspend from Churchill Downs, officials said Sunday.

In a news conference Sunday morning, Baffert said the winning horse tested positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone, 11 picograms above the legal limit in Kentucky racing, NBC Lexington affiliate WLEX said. Shortly after, Churchill Downs, who hosts the Derby, announced his suspension.

“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 organization said in a statement.

Baffert called the drug test results “disturbing” and “the biggest gut punch in racing for something I didn’t do,” according to WLEX.

The trainer said he didn’t know why Medina Spirit would have tested positive for the drug, which is an anti-inflammatory. He called the incident “a complete injustice” and said he feels “wronged.”

The test doesn’t automatically disqualify Medina Spirit, as Derby officials await results from another sample to come back before making a decision.

“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 of the horse that was runner up in the Derby. Juddmonte, the group that owns Mandaloun, said it was not commenting on the news and will “trust the process” of the investigation.

Medina Spirit is expected to continue racing in the meantime and the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, is scheduled to take place on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, according to Baffert. On Sunday afternoon, the Preakness Stakes said it is investigating the announcement.

“We are consulting with the Maryland Racing Commission and any decision regarding the entry of Medina Spirit in the 146th Preakness Stakes will be made after review of the facts,” the group said in a statement.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said it is also looking into the test results, emphasizing “both the trainer and owner of the horse will be afforded due process, and opportunity to appeal,” according to a statement.

This is not the first drug testing scandal for Baffert. The announcement Sunday makes Medina Spirit Baffert’s fifth horse to fail a drug test in the past year alone.

Last September, another of his horses, Gamine, also tested positive for betamethasone. In April, Baffert successfully appealed his 15-day suspension from the Arkansas Racing Commission after two of his horses tested positive for the painkiller lidocaine.

“There’s problems in racing,” he said Sunday. “But it’s not Bob Baffert.”

Medina Spirit’s win at Churchill Downs on May 1 gave Baffert a record seven Kentucky Derby wins. The jockey was John R. Velazquez, a four-time Derby winner born in Puerto Rico. The horse was not a favorite to win.

The Associated Press contributed.