Medina Spirit aims for preakness under clouds of doping

Drug-crazed Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit will attempt to win the second leg of the US horseracing Triple Crown on Saturday when the 146th Preakness Stakes takes place in Baltimore amid a cloud of doping machinations.

The shockwaves of Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit’s failed Derby drug test continue to spread through racing, dampening the anticipation that would normally build ahead of Saturday’s classic at Pimlico.

While Baffert’s horse starts out as the bookies’ favourite, every win is inevitably accompanied by question marks.

It looks like Medina Spirit will be stripped of the Kentucky Derby crown if the results of a second test from the trial come back positive.

The three-year-old colt will only be allowed to race in Baltimore this weekend after Baffert agreed to conduct more stringent than normal drug tests before the race and to release all test results.

Medina Spirit had traces of the banned steroid betamethasone in his system after the derby.

Baffert – who has been involved in several drug controversies in recent seasons – initially denied giving the horse betamethasone, before later admitting the substance was in an antifungal ointment.

The 68-year-old Hall of Fame coach, who guided American Pharoah to the Triple Crown in 2015 before repeating the feat in 2018 with Justify, will not be in Pimlico for Saturday’s race.

Instead, assistant coach Jimmy Barnes will take on Medina Spirit, as well as the other Baffert-trained entry, Concert Tour.

While Baffert has chosen not to personally attend the Preakness, he has strongly disregarded the build-up.

Some in US racing believe the controversy is overblown, with fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas jumping to Baffert’s defense.

– “Disturbed” Baffert –

“I’ve never seen him so desperate,” Lukas said of Baffert. “He’s innocent. He is currently the best coach in the world.

“He represents so much of the industry. He’s the face of the industry. He needs to step up and represent them.”

Lukas, 85, a six-time Preakness winner, said he tried to persuade Baffert to attend this week’s race in person.

“I was trying to get Bob to come. I’ve spoken to him a few times this week. I thought he should come and maybe just take it head on.”

“Maybe okay, Bob, because he didn’t read the labels properly,” Lukas added. “But other than that, I think he’s completely innocent.”

However, other figures within the sport were less sympathetic.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Kentucky-based trainer Tim Glyshaw said Baffert received preferential treatment because of his profile, noting that he had not been suspended for any of five drug violations in the past year.

“I would have my purse taken and I would be suspended for 15 days,” Glyshaw wrote. “Why doesn’t (Baffert) get the same punishment? Because he has an attorney on retainer and is considered too big to punish.”

Medina Spirit will start Saturday as a 9-5 favorite with stablemate Concert Tour second favorite at odds of 5-2.

Steve Asmussen-trained Midnight Bourbon (5-1) could prove to be the biggest threat to the two Baffert-trained contestants.

Midnight Bourbon was bumped at the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby and eventually finished sixth, but Asmussen says the bay colt, ridden by Irad Ortiz, is ready to strike back in Baltimore.

“He’s doing great, physically wonderful,” said Asmussen.

“He’s just such a beautiful specimen. He walks so nicely around the track… we love our chances.”


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