Why bettors are unlucky when Medina Spirit is stripped

If Medina Spirit were stripped of victory in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, runner-up Mandaloun would be deemed the winner…but bettors on Mandaloun would still be unlucky.

Medina Spirit’s victory is now being investigated after blood tests revealed an increased presence of betamethasone, a regulated anti-inflammatory used to treat pain. Churchill Downs has suspended trainer Bob Baffert pending the final results of the inquest, which will include a second round of testing.

Baffert, a Hall of Fame coach and (currently) winner of seven record Kentucky Derbies, maintains his innocence and says Medina Spirit has never been treated with betamethasone.

If the second test comes back positive, Medina Spirit would lose the win and Mandaloun will be crowned the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner. All of the prize money would then be taken by Medina Spirit’s team and awarded to Mandalouns.

The other money that’s at stake – the small dollar bets on Medina Spirit and others – that’s done and gone. There are no refunds and no awards for people who still hold a Mandaloun ticket.

“All bets are considered settled,” said John Ewing, data analyst for BetMGM. “The race result has already been officially determined and paid out. Disqualifications from positive drug tests will not change the results.”

Jockey John Velazquez, left, looks on as trainer Bob Baffert holds up the winner's trophy after they won with Medina Spirit during the 147th round of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Louisville, Ky.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Jockey John Velazquez, left, looks on as trainer Bob Baffert holds up the winner’s trophy after winning with Medina Spirit in the 147th heat of the Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit’s victory is in doubt after testing positive for the presence of an anti-inflammatory drug. (AP)

Bob Heleringer, Author of Equine Regulatory Law, said the Louisville Courier-Journal in 2019 that once a race is official, no subsequent change by regulators will affect payouts. He called it “one of the most irrevocable standards in racing”.

The reasons for an all bets settled policy are obvious. Reopening payouts after a changed outcome would be incredibly complex. For example, imagine a baseball team whose top player, a record bat, was juiced in the latter half of his career. Would a sportsbook have to pay out all losing bets against this team? Consider a college basketball team that has committed multiple recruiting violations and had their wins robbed. Would bettors who bet money on this team have to pay back their winnings as the winnings no longer existed?

Of course not, in both cases. Sports bettors need to have trust in a sport’s regulators in order to have legitimate competition, and bettors’ profits – and future bets – are based on that trust.

The money involved is not insignificant. weather wagered $2,871,557 on Medina Spirit to win at odds of 12:1 over TwinSpires, the official betting partner of the Kentucky Derby. Another $1,352,157 was wagered on Mandaloun winning at odds of 26-1. These totals do not include bets on place and show results or more exotic wages such as exactas or trifectas.

Only two horses have ever been disqualified after winning the Kentucky Derby. In 2019, Maximum Security was the first to cross the finish line, but the judges determined that the horse had illegally impeded other challengers. In this case, the disqualification occurred shortly after the end of the derby, before the race was considered official, so no Maximum Security payouts were made.

The 1968 Kentucky Derby is more comparable to 2021. In this race, Dancer’s Image won and the race was declared official. A urine sample taken shortly after the race later that evening showed a positive result for phenylbutazone, a pain reliever, and a repeat test on Sunday confirmed the result.

Churchill Downs broke the news on Tuesday after the race: Dancer’s Image would be stripped of the win. “Bute” was not illegal, but like betamethasone, it could not be administered immediately before a race. Owner of Dancer’s Image appealed several timesand Accusations and counter-accusations flew between owner, trainer, veterinarian and Churchill Downs. Ultimately, Forward Pass remained the winner, then and now in historical records. The ruling did not affect the payouts made when the race was official.

The story of Medina Spirit is just beginning. The outcome is uncertain, but if the second blood test comes back positive, there will likely be a protracted battle over Medina Spirit’s legacy.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram at @jaybusbee or contact him at [email protected]

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