Medina Spirit has been posthumously stripped of his Kentucky Derby crown—and his Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert fined and banned—after a tribunal found the colt had been doped before the famous horserace.
An unfancied 12-1 outsider, Medina Spirit won the 147th derby–traditionally held on the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs in Louisville–before a reduced crowd of 50,000 racegoers last year.
But after his victory, in what would have been his trainer Baffert’s seventh derby win, the thoroughbred failed a drugs test, testing positive for Betamethasone, a corticosteroid.
Baffert has now been fined US$7,500 (£5,600/€6,700), suspended from all Kentucky racing facilities for 90-days and banned from running horses in the prestigious derby for two-years.
The 2021 Kentucky Derby title will now go to Mandaloun, who placed second by half-a-length.
In an earlier twist to this sorry tale, Medina Spirit died last December after a workout at Santa Anita racetrack in California.
A necropsy of the colt, who was subsequently cremated, did not establish a definitive cause of death.
Baffert is no stranger to racing controversy, and he has had several brushes with authorities over alleged doping.
In 2018 he trained Triple Crown winner Justify, who tested positive for Scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby that year.
But the case was dropped when the California Horse Racing Board ruled the positive test was caused by accidental feed contamination.
This time around–in a closed meeting before the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission—Baffert’s attorney Clark Brewster claimed the Betamethasone, normally used as an anti-inflammatory treatment, was administered in the form of an ointment – and not illegally in an injection.
However, the three stewards who presided over the hearing didn’t buy Brewster’s argument.
After the ruling Churchill Downs issued a separate statement formally recognizing Mandaloun as the winner of last year’s race and offered congratulations to the horse’s trainer, Brad Cox.
“Winning the Kentucky Derby is one of the most exciting achievements in sports,” said Churchill Downs. “We look forward to celebrating Mandaloun on a future date in a way that is fitting of this rare distinction.”
This year’s Kentucky Derby, the first horserace in the storied Triple Crown, will be run on May 7; to be followed by the Preakness in Baltimore on May 21 and the Belmont Stakes in New York state on June 11.
Regretfully, memories of magnificent Medina Spirit, who had five wins, four seconds and a third from only 10 starts in his all-too-brief career, will be forever tainted.