Thoroughbred Medina Spirit won the 2021 Kentucky Derby but was officially stripped of his title after failing a drug test administered after the race. The removal of his win was done posthumously, as the young horse died suddenly during a workout at the end of last year. His trainer, Bob Baffert, was fined $7,500 and suspended for 90 days following the results of the drug test. The win was Baffert’s seventh, which was a record. Now he once again officially has six Kentucky Derby wins to his name.
Medina Spirit is the third horse in the Kentucky Derby’s illustrious 147-year history to be stripped of the win after finishing first in the race. As a result, his owner, Amr Zedan, will not receive the $1.8 million winner’s purse. The prize money and prestige of being the Kentucky Derby’s winner will instead go to the horse that finished second on the track last year, Mandaloun. That horse is owned by the racing and breeding enterprise called Juddmonte and funded by Prince Khalid bin Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who died last year.
The track in Louisville, Kentucky that hosts the Derby each year, Churchill Downs, released a statement that it officially recognized Mandaloun as the winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby and that “we look forward to celebrating Mandaloun on a future date in a way that is fitting of this rare distinction.”
Doping is common enough in horse racing that routine drug tests are administered after wins as standard procedure. The drug found in Medina Spirit’s system was betamethasone, which is a corticosteroid used to reduce pain and swelling in joints. Baffert and his lawyers denied injecting the colt with the drug and said that it was instead applied topically to treat a rash Medina Spirit had developed on his hindquarters.
Clark Baffert, a lawyer for Baffert, said in a statement that he was disappointed but not surprised by the decision to disqualify Medina Spirit. The trainer plans to immediately appeal the ruling before the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. His legal team plans to pursue all remedies through the court system as well.
“We will appeal, and we will prevail when the facts and rules are presented to detached, neutral decision makers,” read Brewster’s statement.
A filly Baffert trained also tested positive for betamethasone in 2020 after finishing third in the Kentucky Oaks race. Baffert’s horses have failed 30 drug tests over the last forty years, including five in a single 13-month period.
So far, those who gambled at the racetrack are stuck with the financial implications of the original results of last year’s Kentucky Derby. Those who bet on Medina Spirit kept their winnings, while those who placed money on Mandaloun to win are stuck with their losing tickets. A class-action lawsuit has been filed on their behalf.
With the prevalence of doping in horse racing receiving increasingly more publicity and negative attention, calls have been made to bring on another agency to oversee drug use and tests within the industry. No definite plans have been made concerning which agency might do this and how that oversight would be carried out.