Bob Baffert, trainer of doping-stricken Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, said Tuesday the horse was given an antifungal drug that may have caused the positive test that threatened the win.
In a statement released by Baffert’s lawyer and reported by US media, the famous trainer said his staff had treated the colt with the ointment Otomax, which Baffert learned Monday contained the steroid betamethasone.
Medina Spirit tested positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone in a post-race sample, which is banned within two weeks of a race, meaning any amount in a race sample is an infraction.
A second test of the sample must also be positive to void Medina Spirit’s derby win and make runner-up Mandaloun the winner of the US Flat Race Classic on May 1 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
Baffert, who has spent the last two days saying the horse was never treated with betamethasone, said the ointment – which Medina Spirit was given once a day until the eve of the derby – could have been the source of the banned substance inadvertently .
“Yesterday I was told that one of the substances in Otomax is betamethasone,” Baffert said.
“Although 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 continues, I have been told by equine pharmacology experts that this may explain the test results .
“I have been told that a finding of a small amount, such as B. 21 picograms, could correspond to the application of this type of ointment. I intend to continue the investigation and I will continue to be transparent.”
Baffert said he had no idea there were traces of the banned substance in the ointment.
“It was never about tricking the system or gaining an unfair advantage,” said Baffert.
Medina Spirit was transported to Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, Maryland ahead of Saturday’s Preakness, the second leg of the US Triple Crown, with the Treble ending at the Belmont Stakes in New York next month.
Baffert said he will continue to appeal to Kentucky race officials, saying such small amounts of the substance did not offer a competitive advantage.
“Medina Spirit deserved its Kentucky Derby win and my pharmacologists told me that 21 picograms of betamethasone would not have affected the outcome of the race,” Baffert said. “Medina Spirit is a deserved champion and I will keep fighting for him.”
A series of doping cases involving several champion horses trained by Baffert over the years have plagued the Hall of Fame trainer, with the last being possibly the most damaging.
Churchill Downs banned Baffert from entering horses at the racetrack until the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission completed an investigation into the situation.
– Ointment recommended by the vet –
Baffert said his own investigation into the matter revealed that the ointment was used to treat dermatitis which Medina Spirit developed on his rear end following a win in the Santa Anita Derby.
“I had him checked out by my vet, who recommended using an antifungal cream called Otomax,” Baffert said. “The vet’s recommendation was to apply this ointment daily to provide relief to the horse, to 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.”
Baffert has long complained about the small amounts of a substance needed to declare a positive test, saying it opens up the risk of contamination.
“Horse racing needs to address its regulatory problem when it comes to substances that can harmlessly enter a horse’s system.”