What Happens With Winning Bets on Medina Spirit in Kentucky Derby After Positive Drug Test?

Medina Spirit, the racehorse that won the 2021 Kentucky Derby this month, has failed a drug test, leading to the possibility that the colt will be disqualified as the winner.

The horse's positive test for betamethasone was announced on Sunday, but a second test is necessary before Medina Spirit would be disqualified. The horse's Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said he was "totally shocked" when he heard the news, saying that he would not have jeopardized his career by drugging the horse.

While the horse's owner would be required to return the $1.86 million prize money if the follow-up test confirms the drug's presence, those who bet on the horse would not be required to return their winnings, according to Kentucky newspaper The Courier Journal. Mandaloun, the second-place horse in the competition, would be declared the winner if Medina Spirit is ultimately disqualified. But those who placed their bets on Mandaloun will likely be out of luck and be unable to cash in on any winnings.

Medina Spirit wins
Medina Spirit may disqualified from winning the Kentucky Derby after a positive drug test, raising the question of what happens with winning bets. In this photo, Medina Spirit #8, ridden by jockey John Velazquez, (R) 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, at Churchill Downs on May 1 in Louisville, Kentucky. Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Bob Heleringer, author of Equine Regulatory Law, previously told The Courier Journal that winning bets are finalized once the race is declared and that does not change. He described this principle as "one of the most irrevocable standards in racing," asserting that it's the law in every state.

Darren Rovell, a reporter on the business of sports betting with The Action Network, shared the same assessment on Twitter.

"While horse owner would have to return prize money upon appeal if it's not reversed, bettors won't. In fact, you can still cash Medina Spirit tickets today," he explained, sharing a link to an article explaining the situation. That article reported that some betters had threatened to sue and boycott the sport over the fiasco.

In a Sunday statement, the Churchill Downs racetrack, which is home to the Kentucky Derby, said that Medina Spirit would be stripped of the winning title if the follow-up test is consistent with the positive result.

"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," the statement emailed to Newsweek said.

Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tests positive for banned drug. While horse owner would have to return prize money upon appeal if it’s not reversed, bettors won’t. In fact, you can still cash Medina Spirit tickets today. Bettors threaten to sue https://t.co/S3kmSfxZf9

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 9, 2021

"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. 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," Churchill Downs added.

If ultimately disqualified, Medina Spirit would only be the second horse in the Kentucky Derby's nearly 150 year history to be stripped of winnings after failing a drug test. Back in 1968, Dancer's Image failed a drug test and the horse's winnings were given to second-place competitor Forward Pass.