The horse that won the 2021 Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit, has failed a drug test, and its Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert, has been indefinitely suspended from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, officials said Sunday.
In a news conference Sunday morning, Baffert said the horse tested positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone, 11 picograms above the legal limit in Kentucky racing, NBC affiliate WLEX of Lexington reported. Shortly afterward, Churchill Downs, which hosts the Derby, announced his suspension.
"Failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of the horses and jockeys, the integrity of our sport and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby and all who participate. Churchill Downs will not tolerate it," the organization said in a statement.
Baffert said the drug test results were "disturbing" and "the biggest gut punch in racing for something I didn't do," according to WLEX.
He said he didn't know why Medina Spirit would have tested positive for the drug, which is an anti-inflammatory. He said that the incident was "a complete injustice" and that he feels that he was "wronged."
The test doesn't automatically disqualify Medina Spirit, as Derby officials await results from another sample to come back before deciding.
"If the findings are upheld, Medina Spirit's results in the Kentucky Derby will be invalidated and Mandaloun will be declared the winner," Churchill Downs said of the horse that was runner-up. Juddmonte, the group that owns Mandaloun, said that it wouldn't comment and that it would "trust the process."
The second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, is scheduled to take place Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Medina Spirit is expected to continue racing in the meantime, Baffert said. On Sunday afternoon, the organizers of the Preakness Stakes said they are investigating the announcement.
"We are consulting with the Maryland Racing Commission and any decision regarding the entry of Medina Spirit in the 146th Preakness Stakes will be made after review of the facts," the group said in a statement.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission said in a statement that it is also looking into the test results, emphasizing that "both the trainer and owner of the horse will be afforded due process, and opportunity to appeal."
It isn't Baffert's first drug testing scandal. Medina Spirit is his fifth horse to have failed a drug test in the past year alone.
In September, another of his horses, Gamine, also tested positive for betamethasone. Last month, Baffert successfully appealed his 15-day suspension by the Arkansas Racing Commission after two of his horses tested positive for the painkiller lidocaine.
"There's problems in racing," he said Sunday. "But it's not Bob Baffert."
Medina Spirit's victory at Churchill Downs on May 1 gave Baffert a record seven Kentucky Derby wins. The jockey was John R. Velazquez, a four-time Derby winner born in Puerto Rico. The horse hadn't been a favorite to win.