Handicapping the KHRC: Will Medina Spirit be disqualified from his Kentucky Derby win

February 16, 2022

Medina Spirit disqualified, not so fast

Should Medina Spirit be disqualified from his Kentucky Derby win?

Will he be and should he be are the two questions regarding Medina Spirit being disqualified from his front running Kentucky Derby win?

As most in the horse racing community know there was a hearing in Lexington Kentucky this past Monday, February 14th, 2022 before the KHRC (Kentucky Horse Racing Commission) via a zoom call. The purpose of the hearing was to allow Bob Baffert and his attorneys to present evidence that Medina Spirit should not be disqualified as a Kentucky Derby winner.

The meeting was not open to the public or press. Bob Baffert did provide testimony at the hearing.

Since the betamethasone positive was announced there has been a lot written about it. Much of what has been written, at least what I have seen has been opinion and regurgitation of the same information.

Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone following the Kentucky Derby. The presence of betamethasone was confirmed by a split sample test. From the onset Bob Baffert has contended and continues to contend Medina Spirit has never been injected with betamethasone.

I am not an attorney nor can I even profess to be an educated man. I am neither. I can read however, and I can also be fair, objective, not rush to judgement, and make informed decisions based on the actual facts.

Most people and as I understand it courts as well, take the position that any ambiguity in language in a contract, rule, law, agreement, or any written governing document will favor the party who did not write it if a dispute arises. That would seem fair. If you wrote the contract, law or rule you should have spelled out the intent clearly without ambiguity. You can’t be vague and then use it against someone in your favor. That is an important point in this case.

When we learned that it was Bob Baffert’s contention the positive test resulted from a creme used to treat a rash Churchill Downs took the position that did not matter. Any betamethasone positive was a rule violation. Bob Baffert through his legal counsel disagreed and took the position the rule only applies to an injection. I assume both parties have access to the same written rule. Someone can’t read, someone is wrong, or something is ambiguous.

I’ll keep this simple as I believe simplicity is the essence of intelligence. The Baffert legal team went through the expense of determining the specific derivative of betamethasone found in Medina Spirit was not the same as what is found following an injection, thus proving the positive resulted from a creme.

Bob Baffert attorney Clark Brewster had this to say in a statement sent to the media:

“The Kentucky rules and all other jurisdictions restrict only betamethasone acetate or sodium phosphate. “These formulations are injectable solutions into a horse’s intra-articular joint. Medina Spirit was never injected with betamethasone, and the evidence presented (Monday) proved that conclusively.”

Clark Brewster

Considering the above, there is really only one place to find the answer to “should Medina Spirit be disqualified from his Kentucky Derby win?” That answer has to be in the KHRC rule itself.

Below is the rule in question taken from the KHRC website.

(13)

The following shall have a fourteen (14) day stand down period for intra-articular injection. Any IA corticosteroid injection within fourteen (14) days shall be a violation:

(a)

Betamethasone, via IA administration at 9 mg total dose in a single articular space. Withdrawal time should be increased for use of betamethasone products with a ratio of greater than 1:1 betamethasone acetate to betamethasone sodium phosphate. Intramuscular administration is associated with substantially longer withdrawal times.

Clearly the rule in play speaks towards injections and not ointments. There is no ambiguity here. It is what it is and says what it says.

If the subsequent testing of Medina Spirit shows the betamethasone is from an ointment, specifically otomax, but in reality any ointment or topical, which was prescribed and administered by a Veterinarian there is no violation of this rule.

The loosely floated statement that it does not matter if it is an ointment or injection is false. According to KHRC rule (13) (a) it matters.

It doesn’t really matter what any of our personal feelings are. The question is and remains did Bob Baffert violate a rule with Medina Spirit in the Kentucky Derby? If the positive is from an ointment the answer is no, he did not.

Can Churchill Downs establish a prima facia case, let alone prove, the positive for betamethasone was from an injection? We do know they offered nothing new at the hearing last Monday, just the test and split sample confirmation. I would think before you alter the history of what is widely viewed as not only the most exciting two minutes in horse racing but in sports, you prove a rule was violated, and have your ducks in a row.

I never trust administrative type hearings. Politics and things outside the scope have a better chance of coming into play than in an actual courtroom. Obviously Churchill Downs who yields a big the Kentucky Derby is ours stick will have egg on their faces to wipe off should Mr. Baffert prevail. How much power do they have in that hearing room? I don’t know the answer to that question. Can there be a ruling based strictly on the rule and the facts and evidence? I don’t know the answer to that either, but I’d like to think there can be. It seems we will all find out.

We know the allegations of a rule violation had an impact on the Eclipse Awards. If you are an Eclipse voter, which I am not, and you voted for Essential Quality over Medina Spirit because you thought he was better, you are certainly entitled to that opinion but you probably shouldn’t have a vote. They raced twice, and Medina Spirit beat him both times. Medina Spirit also beat older horses which Essential Quality did not.

If you voted for Essential Quality because you chose to ignore the bad press Godolphin received, but chose to believe there was a rule violation by Bob Baffert in regard to Medina Spirit in the Kentucky Derby I’d say you got played.

Medina Spirit died a Kentucky Derby winner and based on the rule on the books, if the betamethasone was from an ointment, a Kentucky Derby winner he should remain.

Photo: Coady Photography

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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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