Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit is facing disqualification after testing on a second postrace sample confirmed the presence of the the steroid betamethasone, a lawyer who represents the horse’s owner confirmed to The New York Times.
Attorney Clark Brewster told the newspaper that a laboratory at UC Davis confirmed the presence of betamethasone in the second sample.
Mandaloun, the horse that finished second in the Derby, is now poised to be declared the winner.
Brewster, however, told The New York Times in a text message that the UC Davis lab didn’t test for other compounds, “which could prove the trace positive came from an inadvertent and materially inconsequential contamination sourced from a topical ointment used to treat Medina Spirit for a skin lesion on his hip.”
Brewster told The New York Times that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has agreed to send Medina Spirit’s original blood and urine samples to an independent laboratory to test for the presence of other compounds.
“The KHRC is not going to be providing comment or updates on the status of this ongoing investigation. We will provide information when the entire matter is complete,” Kentucky Horse Racing Commission spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said in an email to The New York Times when asked for comment.
Trainer Bob Baffert said on May 9 that 21 picograms of the corticosteroid, which can be used to help a horse’s joints, showed up in Medina Spirit’s first blood sample.
A day later, he said an ointment used to treat Medina Spirit for a skin condition daily up until the Derby included the substance. Even a trace amount of betamethasone in a horse’s system is not allowed on race day in Kentucky, Maryland and New York.
Medina Spirit finished third in the Preakness Stakes, after passing a drug test to be allowed to race, but is not entered in the Belmont Stakes after Baffert has suspended from entering horses at New York racetracks, pending an investigation into the horse’s first failed postrace drug test.
Even if Medina Spirit is disqualified, bettors who backed Mandaloun to win in the pari-mutuel pool will not be refunded or paid, despite potentially having the eventual winning horse.
Kentucky Horse Racing Commission regulations state that: “Payments of valid pari-mutuel tickets shall be made on the basis of the order of finish as declared ‘official’ by the stewards or judges. A subsequent change in the order of finish or award of purse money that may result from a subsequent ruling by the stewards, judgers, or commission shall not affect the pari-mutuel payout.”
Approximately $155.4 million was bet on the Kentucky Derby pari-mutuel pool. An estimated $11 million-$12 million was bet on Medina Spirit, based on his odds to win (12-1). An estimated $3 million-$4 million was staked on Mandaloun, who went off at 26-1.
ESPN’s David Purdum and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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