Medina Spirit ruling in, disqualified as the Kentucky Derby winner

February 21, 2022

The KHRC announced today Medina Spirit has been disqualified as the Kentucky Derby winner for the presence of betamethasone

In perhaps a ruling that came earlier than many expected Medina Spirit has been disqualified as the winner of the Kentucky Derby.

Bob Baffert attorney Clark Brewster responds to the ruling

In a ruling that can’t be considered a surprise the KHRC ruled as expected. Medina Spirit has been disqualified in what has to be an odd interpretation of their own rules. Bob Baffert is suspended 90 days and fined $7,500.00. The Churchill Downs imposed Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby ban of two years, the “Baffert ban” as the rule was tailored specifically towards him is obviously a separate issue and remains in effect.

The following was posted on the KHRC website earlier today:

Ruling number: 21-0009
Sample #E427258

Date: February 21, 2022
Upon receipt of notification from Industrial Laboratories, the official testing laboratory for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, and confirmed at Universityof California, Davis (Laboratory No: 210525-424136), sample number E427258 taken from MEDINA SPIRIT, who finished first in the twelfth race at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2021, contained betamethasone in blood (Class C drug)(fourth medication violation in 365 days in any racing jurisdiction). After a formal hearing before the Board of Stewards Robert A. Baffert is hereby suspended 90 days, March 8, 2022 through June 5, 2022 (inclusive) and fined seven thousand five hundred ($7,500) dollars. MEDINA SPIRIT is disqualified and all purse money forfeited. Pari-mutuel wagering is not affected by this ruling. During his suspension Mr. Baffert is denied the privileges of all facilities under the jurisdiction of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Entry of all horses owned or trained by Mr. Baffert is denied pending transfer to persons acceptable to the stewards. Upon receipt of this ruling, it is required within thirty (30) days to pay any and all fines imposed to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Failure to do so will subject the licensee to summary suspension of license pursuant to 810 KAR 3:020 Section 15 (cc).
810 KAR 2:040 Section 4
810 KAR 4:010 Section 10, subsection (4)
810 KAR 4:100 Section 3, subsections (1) and (2)(d)
810 KAR 4:060 Sections (6) and (7)
810 KAR 8:010 Section 2
810 KAR 8:010 Section 15 subsections (2) and (3)
810 KAR 8:030 Section 2, subsection (3)
810 KAR 8:030 Section 3
810 KAR 8:030, Section 4, subsections (3)(a) and (b)
810 KAR 8:030 Section 9

One of Bob Baffert’s attorneys, Clark Brewster issued the following statement to the media:

“We are disappointed by the Commission’s ruling, but not surprised. This ruling represents an egregious departure from both the facts and the law, but the numerous public statements by KHRC officials over the last several months have made perfectly clear that Bob Baffert’s fate was decided before we ever sat down for a hearing before the three stewards, one of whom is directly employed by Churchill Downs as the racing director at Turfway Park. We will appeal, and we will prevail when the facts and rules are presented to detached, neutral decisionmakers.

  • The Kentucky Rules of Racing, KHRC Rule 8:020-2, regulates only “betamethasone acetate” “via IA [intra-articular joint] administration space” and prohibits its use only if that injection occurred within 14 days of the race.
  • The Kentucky Rules of Racing, Rule 8:010, Section 4, expressly permits trainers to administer ointments containing betamethasone under a rule captioned “Certain Permitted Substances,” which states that “ointments . . . and other products commonly used in the daily care of horses may be administered by a person, other than a licensed veterinarian if”: (1) The treatment does not include any drug, medication, or substance otherwise prohibited by this administrative regulation; (2) The treatment is not injected; and (3) The person is acting under the direction of a licensed trainer or veterinarian licensed to practice veterinary medicine in Kentucky and licensed by the commission.

That is exactly what happened here. Betamethasone valerate is a permitted substance that can be administered to a horse. It was not injected. And it was administered at the direction of a veterinarian, who contemporaneously reported that treatment to a national database accessible to the KHRC prior to the Kentucky Derby. There was no rule violation.

The unrefuted and undisputed facts established at the hearing were: (1) Medina Spirit was treated with an ointment, not an injection; (2) the trace amount of betamethasone detected could not have affected the horse in any way; and (3) the trace amount of betamethasone detected could not possibly have affected the outcome of the race.

In other words, Medina Spirit would have won with or without the ointment because it was irrelevant in every way. The stewards’ decision to rob Medina Spirit of a victory he earned was not in accordance with the law but instead represents biased, purposeful, and wrongful action.

Unless regulators draft and apply Rules of Racing that reflect the practical realities of caring for horses and the irrelevance of trace levels of permitted therapeutic medications, this sport will continue to suffer. Until then, Bob will continue doing the one thing that sets him apart from the KHRC, Churchill Downs, and NYRA: fighting for an honest, fair and transparent application of the rules for all the incredibly hardworking horsemen and horsewomen dedicated to our sport.”

What happens next remains to be seen. An appeal through the court system and out of the administrative arena would seem likely. The ruling by the KHRC came in one week after the hearing, faster than many in the industry anticipated. You would have to think the KHRC was under pressure to issue a ruling which had been called for by members of the media even outside the sport itself, since the positive was announced in the days following the Kentucky Derby.

Churchill Downs instituted the “Baffert rule” ban from the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks prior to the KHRC ruling. The KHRC would have been hard pressed to not disqualify the horse subsequent to the action taken by Churchill Downs. In light of that, and regardless of how the rules actually read, the KHRC ruling can’t be viewed as a surprise. To the contrary, no disqualification would have been a surprise.

Photo: Medina Spirit, Coady Photography

@jonathanstettin congrats on a great hit. Very nice job!!!

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