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Churchill Downs Suspends Trainer Bob Baffert

Medina Spirit and John Velazquez, former winners of the 147th Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has since disqualified them.
Medina Spirit and John Velazquez, former winners of the 147th Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has since disqualified them.

Churchill Downs has indefinitely suspended Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. 

The announcement came following a Sunday morning news conference where Baffert said Medina Spirit, this year’s race winner, failed a postrace drug test. 

Medina Spirit won the 147th Kentucky Derby by a ½ length over second place competitor Mandaloun, but if Kentucky horse racing officials uphold the findings, this year’s first place winner could be disqualified. 

“To be clear, if the findings are upheld, Medina Spirit’s results in the Kentucky Derby will be invalidated and Mandaloun will be declared the winner,” Churchill Downs said in a release.

At a press conference outside Baffert’s barn at Churchill Downs the trainer said Medina Spirit tested positive for 21 picograms of the drug betamethasone. 

That’s the same drug found in the system of another Baffert-trained horse that was disqualified from the Kentucky Oaks last year. The anti-inflammatory drug is legal, but Baffert says the horse tested double acceptable limits. 

Churchill Downs said Baffert has requested a test of a split sample to confirm the results.

Following the announcement, Churchill Downs suspended Baffert from entering any horses at the track. 

“Failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of the horses and jockeys, the integrity of our sport and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby and all who participate. Churchill Downs will not tolerate it,” Churchill downs said in the release. 

In an emailed statement Monday, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Executive Director Marc A. Guilfoil said officials are investigating the test finding. Guilfoil said the test was conducted on Derby Day, May 1, and results were obtained May 7.

“During the investigation, both the trainer and owner of the horse will be afforded due process, and opportunity to appeal,” Guilfoil's email said. “Therefore, the KHRC will not provide further comment at this time.”

Wagering from this year’s Kentucky Derby totaled $233 million. 

Medina Spirit is expected to run in the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, on Saturday, May 15.

This story has been updated. 

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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