LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Trainer Bob Baffert is suspended from running horses at Churchill Downs for the next two years.
In a release, Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) announced that it will prohibit Baffert or any trainer employed by his stables from entering horses or applying for a stall at any of the CDI-owned tracks.
The move comes after a second test confirmed that Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a drug test before winning the first leg of the Triple Crown. The positive hit on the split-sample puts the Derby win in jeopardy. If Medina Spirit is disqualified, Mandaloun would be elevated as the winner of the May 1 Kentucky Derby.
Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone on Derby day, which is a violation of Kentucky's equine medication protocols.
Baffert's attorney, Craig Robertson, said the second test showed 25 picograms of the steroid, after 21 picograms were found initially. Even a trace amount of betamethasone — a picogram is a trillionth of one gram — is prohibited on race day in Kentucky, Maryland and New York, which are home to the sport's Triple Crown races, and considered a violation.
After extensive prerace testing, Medina Spirit ran third in the Preakness at Pimlico, but he will not race in Saturday's Belmont Stakes in New York.
"CDI has consistently advocated for strict medication regulations so that we can confidently ensure that horses are fit to race and the races are conducted fairly," said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of CDI, in a statement. "Reckless practices and substance violations that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated."
Carstanjen's statement continued, "Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby. Given these repeated failures over the last year, including the increasingly extraordinary explanations, we firmly believe that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our duty and responsibility."
CDI said it reserves the right to extend Baffert’s suspension if there are additional violations in any racing jurisdiction.
"It just seems to me like they are jumping the gun," said trainer Dale Romans, a friend of Baffert's. "I know the Derby is precious. It's the economic engine that drives all of horse racing, and we do have to protect the integrity of it, but it seems like a little bit of a rush judgement to me.
"I am shocked by Churchill stepping up and giving the penalty before he went through all his due process," he added. "I think it is unprecedented that they would step in when and step over the regulatory body."
If the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission invalidates Medina Spirit as Derby champion, Baffert’s record-breaking seventh Derby victory would be erased in an embarrassing setback for the two-time Triple Crown winner, who is the face of horse racing.
This would be the second Derby disqualification in three years after 2019 winner Maximum Security was DQ'd for interference following the race and Country House declared the winner. The only previous time that a Derby winner was disqualified after the fact for failing a postrace drug test was 1968 with Dancer's Image.
Just before the Derby, Baffert successfully appealed his suspension in Arkansas after filly Gamine and colt Charlatan tested positive for lidocaine following May 2020 victories at Oaklawn Park. Fines were reduced to $5,000 per horses.
California racing board officials in January voted to let 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify keep his Santa Anita Derby win despite detection of scopolamine in him in postrace samples.
Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved.