Bob Baffert’s most recent statement on the Medina Spirit positive test and Preakness running conditions

May 11, 2021

Bob Baffert has issued another statement through attorney Craig Robertson regarding the positive test on Medina Spirit following the running of the Kentucky Derby.

Here is the statement in entirety:

“On May 9, 2021, I held a press conference in which I stated that I intended to thoroughly investigate how this could have happened and that I would be completely transparent throughout the process. I immediately began that investigation, which has resulted in me learning of a possible source for the betamethasone, and now, as promised, I want to be forthright about what I have learned.

Following the Santa Anita Derby, Medina Spirit developed dermatitis on his hind end.  I had him checked out by my veterinarian who recommended the use of an anti-fungal ointment called Otomax.  The veterinary recommendation was to apply this ointment daily to give the horse relief, help heal the dermatitis, and prevent it from spreading.  My barn followed this recommendation and Medina Spirit was treated with Otomax once a day up until the day before the Kentucky Derby.  Yesterday, I was informed that one of the substances in Otomax is betamethasone.  While we do not know definitively that this was the source of the alleged 21 picograms found in Medina Spirit’s post-race blood sample, and our investigation is continuing, I have been told by equine pharmacology experts that this could explain the test results.  As such, I wanted to be forthright about this fact as soon as I learned of this information.

As I have stated, my investigation is continuing and we do not know for sure if this ointment was the cause of the test results, or if the test results are even accurate, as they have yet to be confirmed by the split sample. However, again, I have been told that a finding of a small amount, such as 21 picograms, could be consistent with application of this type of ointment.  I intend to continue to investigate and I will continue to be transparent.

In the meantime, I want to reiterate two points I made when this matter initially came to light.  First, I had no knowledge of how betamethasone could have possibly found its way into Medina Spirit (until now) and this has never been a case of attempting to game the system or get an unfair advantage.  Second, horse racing must address its regulatory problem when it comes to substances which can innocuously find their way into a horse’s system at the picogram (which is a trillionth of a gram) level.  Medina Spirit earned his Kentucky Derby win and my pharmacologists have told me that 21 picograms of betamethasone would have had no effect on the outcome of the race. Medina Spirit is a deserved champion and I will continue to fight for him.”

We note the results of the split sample Bob has requested and is entitled to are pending. I think it would be reasonable to conclude those results will likely be positive if the use of Otomax is what caused the betamethasone in the first place.

If the split sample comes back positive Churchill Downs is already on record stating Mandaloun would be declared the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Medina Spirit would be disqualified. I would conclude that is their intention as they publicly stated as much. Mitigating circumstances, if found by Churchill Downs during the investigation, and through due process would allow them to impose a penalty that would not alter the order of finish.

Should Medina Spirit be disqualified it will be the second time in three years the actual order of finish in the Kentucky Derby was changed. Maximum Security was disqualified for interference with War of Will after a 22 minute deliberation by the stewards. Country House who was barely bothered, if at all, was declared the winner. Rules are rules.

While it is doubtful and most unlikely 21 picograms of betamethasone stopped Mandaloun from getting by Medina Spirit, barring mitigating factors the rules are the rules. Based on what we now know, and assuming the split sample comes back positive, the question will be was the administration of Otomax on veterinary recommendation, without informing the trainer it contained a banned substance, or knowing the rules themselves and the contents of Otomax, mitigating enough, if at all, to warrant a penalty to not include disqualification. We can all have opinions on that but none of them matter. I think we all know what the ruling will be. If the split sample comes back positive Mandaloun will most likely be declared the winner of the Kentucky Derby.

We have to go quite a way back to find a similar incident in the Kentucky Derby. On Saturday, May 4, 1968, Dancer’s Image won the Kentucky Derby, but was disqualified after traces of phenylbutazone were discovered in the mandatory post-race urinalysis. He was placed last and Forward Pass was declared the winner. We are not exactly in unprecedented waters. Interestingly enough Dancer’s Image was allowed to run in the Preakness. He finished third to Forward Pass and was again disqualified but this time placed eighth for interference with Martin’s Jig.

We all know what happened to the trainer of Maximum Security after the Kentucky Derby disqualification, albeit months after. The Dancer’s Image incident contained a controversy as well.

Peter Fuller who owned Dancer’s Image filed an appeal of the disqualification, as they believed someone else may have been motivated to give the colt an extra dose of phenylbutazone resulting in the positive test. The Kentucky State Racing Commission redistributed the purse nonetheless with first money to Forward Pass. Peter Fuller filed aa lawsuit which he initially won and in December 1970, a Kentucky Court awarded first-place money to Dancer’s Image. That decision was overturned on appeal in April 1972 by the Kentucky Court of Appeals in Kentucky State Racing Comm’n v. Fuller, 481 S.W.2d 298 (Ky. 1972).

Controversy and speculation still surround the incident as Peter Fuller always said he believed he was a victim of a set-up, due to his being a wealthy civil rights sympathizer. he felt he had offended some people of power in Kentucky when he donated Dancer’s Image’s $62,000 prize for a previous victory to Coretta Scott King just days after her husband Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated.

Peter Fuller was so concerned that someone might interfere with his colt he asked Churchill Downs officials to provide extra security before the race. They declined and the rest is history.

At this point it appears Bob’s horses will be allowed to race in both the Preakness and Black Eyed Susan this weekend. Once again strict protocols are in place, and protocols specifically for Bob Baffert have been imposed and agreed to. See the below letter of agreement allowing Bob’s horses to run and the conditions:

We all thought last year we had a crazy Kentucky Derby in the middle of a pandemic in September, with no fans allowed. Who thought this year would be even crazier. Our sport has to get better in so many areas. This is not the time to laundry list them, but the sport desperately needs a central governing body, uniformity in rules that eliminate any mistakes or intentional circumventions and zero tolerance for anyone who can’t play in that arena. I believe it can be done and I believe most of us in the game want it.

Contributing Authors

Jon Stettin

Jonathan’s always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. Growing up around the game, he came about as close as anyone...

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@jonathanstettin  Morning Jonathan, I just read your Piece on its not a Santa Anita thing IT WAS OUTSTANDING. I have been playing horses for 42 yrs since my father 1st brought me to Washington Park. I could not agree with you more. There must be 1 governing board and a commissioner.

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