LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert on Sunday morning told reporters that Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit had tested positive for an illegal amount of the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone and could be in danger of being disqualified as Derby winner, if a second sample comes back positive.
An emotional Baffert made an opening statement before taking questions from reporters. The following is a transcript of Baffert’s remarks, with questions paraphrased.
BOB BAFFERT: Yesterday I got a call from Jimmy Barnes heading for the airport, he told me he had some terrible news that he’d just been served by the Kentucky Racing Commission that Medina Spirit, our Derby horse, had been tested positive for 21 pictographs of betamethasone. And all I can tell you is that betamethasone, even though it is an allowed therapeutic medication, we did not give it, my veterinarian, nobody here, in fact Medina Spirit has never been treated with betamethasone. I cannot believe that I’m here before you guys, I never thought I’d be here. Yesterday I got the biggest gut punch in racing for something I that didn’t do. This is really disturbing, it’s an injustice to the horse. I feel like, here you win a race and you’re still not, to me, I don’t know what’s going on in racing right now, but something isn’t right. I don’t feel embarrassed. I feel like I was wronged. We’re going to do a complete investigation, our own investigation, we’re going to be transparent with the racing commission, like we’ve always been. One thing about it, in California, everything is documented every day, what the horses get. This horse was never treated with that. He’s a great horse. He doesn’t deserve this. He ran a gallant race. To me, I just feel, this last 18 months, what I’ve gone through, it’s like all of us right here, just imagine yourselves going to work every day, and if they tested you every day for these levels, these contamination levels, and told you if you tested positive you would be fired, that’s how I feel. I do not feel safe to train. It’s getting worse, and to me, going forward, how do I enjoy training? How do I move forward from this, knowing that something can happen? It’s a complete injustice, but I’m going to fight it tooth and nail, because I owe it to the horse, I owe it to the owner, and to our industry. Our industry needs to step up, and we need to do a better job in racing. There’s something wrong right now. I’ve been talking about it, nothing seems to be done about it, but these contamination levels — and I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I know everybody’s not out to get me, but there’s definitely something wrong. Why is it happening to me. There’s problems in racing, but it’s not Bob Baffert. I just want to get that across to you guys.
Q: Is that a possible disqualification from the Derby?
BAFFERT: First of all, he’s not disqualified yet. We have to go through the process. We have to do a DNA sample. Was it him? Something’s just not right. It’s not a disqualification, it’s not official, until the split sample comes. That’s part of the process. We haven’t even got to that. Usually we wait for that, but I knew I wanted to get in front, I hate this leaking now. Everything leaks out. People knew about it before I did. That’s very disturbing, but we still have to go through a process. He’s still the Derby winner, but we have to go through that process.
Q: You said 21 picograms, do you know the allowable level in Kentucky? And does it matter, if you said you didn’t give it to him?
BAFFERT: I don’t know. We we did not give it to the horse. (The allowed level is 10.) To me, I was totally shocked. When I heard this news, it was shocking, and I’m still trying to absorb it right now. I still can’t believe that I’m talking about it. We should be joyful. We win the most prestigious race in America. The thing about it is, I know I’m the most scrutinized trainer and I have millions of eyes on me. But you know I don’t have a problem with that. The last thing I want to do is do something that would jeopardize the greatest two minutes in sports. I just want to get that out there, that this is terrible but we have to deal with it now.
Q: This was from the post-race sample?
Q: What is your suspicion of what went wrong?
BAFFERT: You know what, I’m not going to speculate. I have no idea where it came from. We don’t know. We can’t believe it’s in there. The process has to start. We’re going to investigate it thoroughly. That’s all I can tell you on that?
Q: What is the timeline for the process?
BAFFERT: I don’t know. You know we really didn’t, I talked to the stewards, and the process, could be a week, I don’t know. I don’t know what it is.
Q: Who have you talked to?
BAFFERT: They came here and I talked to the stewards yesterday, and they told me that they were going to contact the owner, he was in Saudi Arabia or wherever he is.
Q: Are you worried, after Gamine last year, it’s a big story when these things break but less so if you get cleared?
BAFFERT: Well, Gamine was a different story because we did everything, went an extra four days, and still were in trouble, but we did treat her. This horse was not treated with this. That’s the scary part, and it makes me as a trainer, is this the life I have to live from now on? You win a race you have to worry a week later? I’ve never had to worry about these tests. I don’t know what’s going on with the regulators, if things are going on, but I’m just at a loss for words.
Q: Have you talked to other trainers and do they feel the same way?
BAFFERT: Oh yeah. We’re sitting ducks, basically. And it’s getting worse. And this is something that has to be addressed by the industry.
Q: What is this drug used for when it is used?
BAFFERT: It’s an anti-inflammatory.
Q: You use it for joint injections?
BAFFERT: You’d have to talk to the vet.
Q: What’s your plan for the investigation?
BAFFERT: Well Craig Robertson, my lawyer, is here. We’ll start the process. There’s lots of things. We’re going to pull hair. Immediately, I demanded that the state pull hair and make sure if he’s ever had betamethasone in his system, DNA testing to make sure it’s the right test. We had to jump through a lot of hoops to get to the Derby. Competition testing, he had that done. We’re going to have them look at his sample from (April 18) again. There’s a lot of things we’re going to be doing.
Q: How long until the split sample comes back?
BAFFERT: I don’t know about that.
Q: You took some steps around your barn in how you do things. What changes have you seen?
BAFFERT: The thing is, we’re aware of being extra careful, clean, wash your hands, everything. And for this to happen, especially on the biggest day, I am so proud of the body of work that we’ve had, and this has really hurt. It hurts everybody. We should be enjoying ourselves. And for something like this to happen, it was shocking. This shouldn’t have happened. There’s a problem somewhere. But it didn’t come from us. Something happened there, but we don’t know what it is.
Q: But your procedures changes?
BAFFERT: I always had really good procedures. Everything we did with Justify, I couldn’t have prevented that. He ingested hay. In Arkansas, the lidocaine, we thought it was possible that Jimmy could’ve passed it, but it turned out there were other horses contaminated that day. It wasn’t Jimmy. We’ve always been very transparent. Gamine, we showed the vet records, we’re going to show the vet records, we’re going to show them everything, and they’re not going to see betamethasone. That’s the way we roll.
Q: Are you going to publicly release the vet records?
BAFFERT: I release them to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
Q: I’ve asked you this before — do you feel like you’re the subject of a witch hunt?
BAFFERT: Well, I mean, I’m not saying that. I just say it seems odd that why am I the only one that has contaminations. That seems odd to me. We won three races that day and they all go tested and he’s the only one. So, for some reason, first thing I ask, was there any other positive? They always tell me no, and then later on you get down the road and you find out there was. So I don’t know. There’s a lot to deal with.
Q: Are you worried about public perception?
BAFFERT: I’m worried about our sport. We’ve taken a lot of hits for the sport. This is pretty serious accusations here, but we’re going to get to the bottom of it. We know we didn’t do it, didn’t have anything to do with it. I don’t know how it got into his system, if it did, or was there a mistake or something, but we’re going to get to the bottom of it.
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