LEXINGTON (TNS) — Attorneys for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and the owner of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit have gone to court in Frankfort to force the state’s racing commission to allow more testing.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in Franklin Circuit Court, Baffert and Zedan Racing Stables asked the court to make the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission allow testing on the urine samples taken at Churchill Downs on May 1.
A hearing on the request is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday.
Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby but tested positive for betamethasone, a steroid that cannot be used during racing. Baffert contends that the horse was treated for a skin condition with an ointment that contains betamethasone.
A second test of the split sample of Medina Spirit’s blood confirmed the presence of betamethasone last week, according to Craig Robertson, Baffert’s attorney.
The finding prompted Churchill Downs to announce that Baffert and his employees would be barred from racing or training any horses at tracks owned by the Louisville company for two years.
Clark Brewster, attorney for horse owner Amr Zedan, has said that veterinary records support Baffert’s contention that the horse must have acquired the drug through the application of the ointment because there is no indication Medina Spirit was given a joint injection of betamethasone.
According to the attorneys, the first test found a level of 21 picograms per milliliter of blood, a level they allege is consistent with using the ointment once a day for weeks.
However, the method of administration is not spelled out in racing regulations. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has yet to act on the case.
Kentucky Derby win at issue
Whether or not Medina Spirit will be stripped of the Kentucky Derby win, which was Baffert’s seventh, and the $1.68 million purse that goes with it.
The racing commission agreed to allow the remainder of the original blood sample to be tested for other ingredients found in the Otomax ointment but not in the injection.
However, according to the complaint, on June 1 the “KHRC informed the Plaintiffs that the ‘remnant’ samples had been damaged/contaminated during transport to the agreed-upon testing lab. This has created doubt over whether those samples will be sufficient to allow Plaintiffs to test them for the compounds in Otomax to prove the betamethasone in Medina Spirit did not come from an injection.”
The racing commission, according to the complaint, has refused to allow the urine samples to be used instead,” according to the suit. “Time is of the essence as biologic samples degrade with each passing day. Without intervention from this Court, Plaintiffs will forever lose the opportunity to test, analyze and cross-examine the only evidence that purports to establish a violation of the KHRC’s regulations — Medina Spirit’s biological urine sample that was split from the primary sample following the race.”
Reaction to the lawsuit from animal activists was swift.
“Bob Baffert fails not only at chemistry but also at logic. A test result revealing that he used ointment on Medina Spirit wouldn’t prove that he didn’t also inject the horse’s joints. Indeed, he may have injected betamethasone and also used the ointment just to give himself another absurd excuse,” said PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo in a statement. “The trainer is responsible for a failed drug test, and the trainer must bear the punishment — which should be a swift banishment from racing. PETA again calls for a thorough independent veterinary examination of Medina Spirit to determine whether he has injuries or pain that may have been masked by the medication.”
If Medina Spirit is disqualified, Mandaloun, the horse that finished second, would be declared the winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Only one Derby winner has ever been disqualified because of a failed drug test — Dancer’s Image in 1968.
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