Medina Spirit May Be Stripped of Kentucky Derby Crown After Bob Baffert Drug Announcement

Horse trainer Bob Baffert stood beside his lawyer Sunday as it was announced that last week's Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, tested positive for elevated levels of betamethasone, prompting speculation the horse's crown will be stripped.

Baffert on Sunday denied that the 3-year-old brown colt was ever treated with the anti-inflammation corticosteroid leading up to the Kentucky Derby win last Saturday. The drug is allowed up to a certain level, but postrace tests detected 21 picograms per milliliter—more than double the legal threshold in Kentucky horse racing—present in Medina Spirit's system.

This is the second horse trained by Baffert that tested positive for betamethasone. Last September, the Baffert-trained horse Gamine had the same corticosteroid present in the thoroughbred's system.

As of Sunday, Medina Spirit has not officially been disqualified, Baffert told reporters, pending a split sample test that could lead to an appeal even if the results are confirmed. If Baffert's appeal of the drug test is unsuccessful, Medina Spirit will be stripped of the prestigious Kentucky Derby crown and all money gained off the victory will be forfeited.

"Yesterday, I got the biggest gut punch in racing for something that I didn't do," Baffert said during Sunday morning's announcement. "[It's an] injustice to the horse. I don't feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged. But I'm going to fight it."

Churchill Downs, the Louisville, Kentucky, venue which famously hosts the annual event, issued a statement Sunday in response to the drug testing report. It immediately suspended Baffert from entering any horses into competitions at the track.

"It is our understanding that Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit's post-race blood sample indicated a violation of the Commonwealth of Kentucky's equine medication protocols. The connections of Medina Spirit have the right to request a test of a split sample and we understand they intend to do so. 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."

"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. We will await the conclusion of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commissions' investigation before taking further steps."

"We're going to show them everything. One thing about it in California, everything is documented every day what the horse gets. This horse was never treated with that. He's a great horse, he doesn't deserve this. He ran a gallant race," Baffert added.

No announcement has been made yet whether Medina Spirit will compete in next Saturday's Preakness Stakes, the second race in the Triple Crown series.

Baffert said he first learned of the positive drug test after Kentucky race officials contacted him Saturday. If additional drug tests produce positive results over the coming few days, officials warned him, Medina Spirit could be disqualified regardless of appeal.

Updated 12:23 PM ET.

Medina Spirit
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MAY 01: Medina Spirit #8, ridden by jockey John Velazquez, crosses the finish line to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby ahead of Mandaloun #7, ridden by Florent Geroux, and Hot Rod Charlie #9 ridden by Flavien Prat , and Essential Quality #14, ridden by Luis Saez, at Churchill Downs on May 01, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images/Getty Images