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Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit gets green light to race in Preakness Stakes

The Bob Baffert-trained colt passed all drug tests ahead of Saturday's race at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
Medina Spirit
Medina Spirit, center, peeks from his stall after arriving at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, M.d., on May 10, 2021.Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Embattled Kentucky Derby champion Medina Spirit passed his final pre-race drug tests, clearing the way for him to run in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, officials said Friday.

Earlier this week, the colt's trainer, Bob Baffert, and Preakness organizers made the unusual agreement to test Medina Spirit ahead of the race in hopes of heading off drug issues that have dogged the Derby winner.

Baffert revealed on Sunday that Churchill Downs told him Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, which put the horse's Derby win earlier this month in question.

The last of three blood samples was taken from Medina Spirit on Tuesday, and all samples came back clean, the Maryland Jockey Club said in a statement late Friday afternoon.

The tests were conducted by the University of California at Davis' Maddy Laboratory, according to MJC, which owns Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, where the Preakness is run.

In addition to Medina Spirt, two other Baffert horses were tested ahead of big Pimlico races this weekend. Concert Tour is also racing in the Preakness, while Beautiful Gift finished seven in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes early Friday evening.

In a statement on Friday, MJC said "the additional tests and monitoring" were done to "ensure the fairness and integrity of the races with horses entered by Baffert."

Betamethasone is a legal, pain-relieving steroid commonly used to treat horses. But in many states, including Kentucky, no amount of it is allowed in a horse's system on race day.

Veterinarians caution against overuse of betamethasone, fearing it could mask serious bone and joint injuries and lead to a deadly breakdown.

Saturday's race at Pimlico Race Course is the second jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown, following the Derby and preceding the Belmont Stakes.

Thirteen horses have won the Triple Crown, and the last two, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018, were trained by Baffert.

Post time for the Preakness is 6:47 p.m. EDT, and the race will air on NBC. In early action, bettors made Medina Spirit a 9-5 favorite in the 10-horse field.