The trainer and the owner of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit filed a lawsuit Monday asking a judge to order racing officials to conduct more testing before stripping the colt of its victory in the Run for the Roses.
In a civil action filed in Franklin Circuit Court, Bob Baffert and Zedan Racing Stables asked for a temporary injunction barring the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission from taking action against their horse until additional tests can be run.
Medina Spirit was found to have the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone in his system May 1, when he was first to cross the Kentucky Derby finish line.
The medication is common in horse racing, but under state guidelines, it has to be administered several days ahead of a race and be out of the animal's system when it runs. It's feared that overuse of the drug could mask injuries and lead to catastrophic breakdowns.
Baffert said Medina Spirit accidentally received betamethasone when he was treated with Otomax, an ointment used for skin irritation, which incidentally contains the steroid.
Baffert's team is demanding that the racing commission test samples from Medina Spirit for Otomax.
The plaintiffs claim that if the horse can be shown to have had Otomax in his system that day, it will prove that the colt's team didn't knowingly violate the spirit of regulations.
"The manner in which the betamethasone found its way into Medina Spirit is critical," the complaint says. "There is a huge difference in a betamethasone finding due to an interarticular joint injection versus one from a topical ointment — from both a regulatory and public relations standpoint."
A spokeswoman for the racing commission declined to comment Tuesday.
A leading equine veterinarian, Dr. Mary Scollay, executive director and chief operating officer of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, said she's not sure that the presence of Otomax would completely clear the horse.
"Doesn't prove Otomax was the sole source of exposure," she said. "Stewards consider mitigating and aggravating circumstances. Not sure how they'd interpret the Otomax."
Baffert has been suspended for two years from Churchill Downs. Medina Spirit's Derby win is under scrutiny, and he could still be disqualified.