Horse Racing – Medina Spirit has been cleared for participation in Preakness Stakes

By Rory Carroll

(Reuters) – Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, the Bob Baffert-trained horse who failed a drug test after his May 1 triumph, is eligible to compete in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, the Maryland Jockey Club said on Tuesday with

If the horse’s positive test for the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone is confirmed, Churchill Downs said it will strip Medina Spirit of its Kentucky Derby win, and the racecourse has already banned Baffert from entering horses there.

The controversy surrounding Medina Spirit’s positive test raised questions about whether the three-year-old colt would be allowed to compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown.

An agreement between Baffert and state horse racing regulators that includes “rigorous testing and monitoring” paved the way for Tuesday’s announcement.

Baffert has repeatedly denied giving the horse any illegal substances. He said Tuesday an antifungal ointment used to treat dermatitis could be the source of the positive test.

“We place great value on the integrity of the sport, but that includes the integrity of due process,” Maryland Jockey Club advisor Alan Rifkin said at Tuesday’s draw, which saw Medina Spirit pull the third post and the early 9th 5 favorites in the 10 horse race.

“So today we reached an agreement with Mr. Baffert and his attorneys that allows for additional testing, additional monitoring and essentially a watchlist to ensure the integrity of the sport before the race.”

Dionne Benson, the Stronach Group’s chief veterinarian for 1/ST Racing, said increased pre-race testing will ensure officials know what medications are in the horses’ bodies before they enter the gate.

“Traditionally, most of the testing takes place after the race,” she said. “This allows us to prevent the problem from becoming an issue rather than addressing it after the fact.”

The test results will come back on Friday, she added.

Betamethasone, which is permitted at certain levels in some racing jurisdictions, is not permitted at any level in Maryland. So if it is found in Medina Spirit or any other horse, regulators will require the horse to be scratched.

North American horse racing has come under fire in recent years following the deaths of horses due to the widespread use of drugs in the sport.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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