Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit fails second drug check
John Velazquez leads Medina Spirit to win the 147th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Jamie Rhodes | USA TODAY Sports | Reuters
A second blood test by Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit has confirmed the presence of the banned steroid betamethasone, an attorney for the horse owner told CNBC on Wednesday.
The second positive test increases the risk that Medina Spirit’s victory on May 1 will be overturned by Kentucky race officials and Mandaloun, who finished second that day, will be declared the winner.
Clark Brewster, attorney for horse owner Arm Zedan’s, said the officials are allowing the Medina Spirit team to have a third sample of the horse analyzed by another laboratory to see if there are any chemicals that could suspect coach Bob’s claim Baffert suggest that the betamethasone came from an antifungal ointment and not from an injection.
If the third test gives that result, Brewster could argue that Medina Spirit will be disqualified from the Derby, the first jewel in the thoroughbred sport’s Triple Crown.
The attorney could also question the accuracy and protocol of the first official test and the second blood analysis known as a split sample.
The second failed test was first reported by the New York Times on Wednesday.
Brewster said that if a horse fails an initial drug test, a trainer usually has the option to send “the B sample” to a selected laboratory for a second confirmatory test for analysis.
For the Medina Spirit B sample, Brewster said the horse’s team “requested that both blood and urine be sent to such a laboratory.”
Medina Spirit’s coach Bob Baffert lifts the trophy after finishing 147th with Medina Spirit.
Andy Lyons | Getty Images
The lawyer said that if both substances were tested, the presence of chemical components could be detected that would indicate whether betamethasone was from the ointment.
“But she [racing officials] refused to send the urine, “Brewster said.” They only sent the blood. “
The lawyer said the Medina Spirit team was informed on Monday or Tuesday that the laboratory had found “betamethasone” in the split sample.
Brewster said the lab hadn’t released the steroid levels found in the blood “but they said it was there”.
“They estimated it was 25 picograms,” he said.
A picogram is a trillionth of a gram.
Baffert first revealed at a news conference on May 9 that Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid, and said the first sample contained 21 picograms of betamethasone.
While this drug is legal for use as a therapeutic on a horse in Kentucky, any trace of it on race day is a reason for disqualification if a second test confirms it was in the blood that day.
Baffert, who has failed five of his horses on drug tests so far this year, has been suspended indefinitely from Churchill Downs because of Medina Spirit’s first positive test.
Medina Spirit was later allowed to compete in the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, the second leg of the Triple Crown, on May 15, under an agreement that she and another Baffert-trained horse, Concert Tour, would undergo “rigorous testing and surveillance,” the Maryland Jockey Club said.
Medina Spirit came third in Preakness.
Medina Spirit will not be competing in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday in Long Island, New York as the trainer has been temporarily suspended from horses participating in this race, the third gem of the Triple Crown or other major New York circuit last month of the positive drug test from the Derby.
Brewster later made a formal statement on the matter Wednesday.
“In response to inquiries, it confirms that the Medina Spirit split sample confirmed the finding of betamethasone at 25 picograms,” Brewster said.
“Other tests will be done, including DNA testing,” said the lawyer.
“We expect these additional tests to confirm that the presence of betamethasone is from the Otomax topical ointment and not from an injection,” Brewster said.
“Ultimately, we expect this case to be about treating Medina Spirit’s rash with Otomax. We won’t have anything to say until the additional tests are completed.”
Kristin Voskuhl, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said in a statement that the commission “does not provide any comments or updates on the state of the investigation.”
“The KHRC values fairness and transparency and will provide information to the media and the public upon completion of an investigation,” said Voskuhl.
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC and NBC Sports, which broadcast the Triple Crown races.