Medina Spirit trainer Bob Baffert has been banned from the Kentucky Derby for two years following the verification of a positive drug test by the winning horse. As a result, Medina Spirit has been stripped of its win at the 2021 Kentucky Derby, and Mandaloun has been named the new winner. It’s the first time since Dancer’s Image won the derby in 1968 that the winner has been disqualified due to a positive drug test.
A strongly-worded statement by Churchill Downs called Baffert’s actions “reckless,” and left the door open for the suspension to be extended, should the trainer have further infractions at any race course in America. Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen sais:
“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. 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.”
Baffert vehemently denied any wrongdoing immediately after the positive test was announced shortly after the Kentucky Derby. He suggested a stable hand urinating on horse feed could explain the positive test, and even suggested that the scrutiny he faced was due to “cancel culture,” before later admitting that the horse was treated with the anti-inflammatory drug “Otomax,” despite his previous denial.
The suspension handed down by Churchill Downs is the most severe punishment Baffert has faced in recent years, despite numerous cases of him having rules violations. A 2018 case against Baffert was dismissed as “feed contamination,” as was another in 2020, when Baffert successfully argued that positive tests were a result of “accidental medicine transfer,” from stable hands to his race horses.
Medina Spirit lost in the Preakness Stakes last month, closing the door on a possible triple crown even before Churchill Downs reached its decision. Baffert did not attend the Preakness in person, saying he didn’t want to be a “distraction.” The New York Racing Association preemptively banned Baffert from the Belmont Stakes, citing the pending test from the Kentucky Derby, but have not yet announced how long they plan their suspension to last.
Baffert has not issued a statement at this time about his suspension.