Controversial Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit barred from Belmont over banned substance


Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit will not contend in next month’s Belmont Stakes after the New York Racing Association (NYRA) temporarily suspended the horse and its famed trainer, Bob Baffert, on Monday following a failed drug test.

Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, a banned substance, earlier this month after winning the first of the three legs of horse racing’s Triple Crown series.

The horse came up short at Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, finishing third behind Midnight Bourbon and upset winner Rombauer.

“In order to maintain a successful thoroughbred racing industry in New York, NYRA must protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public and racing participants,” NYRA¬†chief executive Dave O’Rourke said in a written statement announcing the suspension.

“That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of thoroughbred racing.”

WATCH | Medina Spirit tests positive:

The horse that won the Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit, has tested positive for a controlled substance. The result has put trainer Bob Baffert under scrutiny – and several titles at risk. 2:05

Baffert, one of the most successful and recognizable figures in the sport with a record seven Kentucky Derby wins, said there was “never any attempt to game or cheat the system” in a statement provided to NBC Sports on Saturday.

If the positive test for the anti-inflammatory steroid is confirmed, it would strip Medina Spirit of his Kentucky Derby win.

Baffert will temporarily not be allowed to stable any horses at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course or run any of his horses at the NYRA’s tracks. That ban includes races at Belmont Park, with the Belmont Stakes coming up June 5.

Baffert had not committed to entering any horses in the third leg of the Triple Crown but had many in consideration for other races on Belmont Stakes day.

NYRA officials say they took into account Baffert’s previous penalties in Kentucky, California and Arkansas, along with the current situation with Medina Spirit, and expects to make a final determination about the length and terms of the suspension based in information revealed by Kentucky’s ongoing investigation.

Craig Robertson, an attorney who represents Baffert, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone in post-race testing and faces disqualification unless a second test comes back negative. Baffert said on Sunday 21 picograms of the corticosteroid, which can be used to help a horse’s joints, showed up in the blood sample.

Baffert a day later said an ointment used to treat Medina Spirit for a skin condition daily up until the Derby included the substance. Even a trace amount of betamethasone in a horse’s system is not allowed on race day in Kentucky, Maryland and New York.

Maryland officials required Medina Spirit and Baffert-trained Preakness runner Concert Tour and Black-Eyed Susan entrant Beautiful Gift undergo three rounds of prerace testing before they’d be allowed to run last weekend at Pimlico. All three passed and were cleared to race.

Medina Spirit finished third and Concert Tour ninth in the Preakness on Saturday. Beautiful Gift was seventh in the Black-Eyed Susan on Friday.

Baffert has had five violations involving impermissible levels of medication in his horses over the past 13 months. He was fined in Kentucky and Arkansas and avoided a suspension in Arkansas following appeal.

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