Trainer Bob Baffert provided this photograph, indicating the subject is Medina Spirit and the dermatitis on his hind end following the Santa Anita Derby
As attorneys prepare for the Aug. 22 appeals hearing in the ongoing Medina Spirit case, a pre-race test result has now become public for the first time.
In response to a public information act request filed by the Paulick Report, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has released results of the out-of-competition testing performed on Medina Spirit ahead of the 2021 Kentucky Derby.
An Industrial Laboratories form dated April 18, 2021, indicates blood was drawn from Medina Spirit at Santa Anita Park and assigned sample number E42871. (It is common for the Kentucky commission to work with official veterinarians in other states to do pre-race sampling of likely Derby contenders ahead of the race.) An undated page titled “Screening Results By Sample” lists several sample numbers along with drug amounts and concentrations. E42871 was found to contain 13.269 ng/mL of omeprazole sulfide, which is a common ulcer medication permitted in racehorses. It does not show any concentrations for betamethasone, although a separate sample from another horse whose results appear elsewhere on the page did indicate a level for .319 ng/ml of “dexamethasone or betamethasone.”
The colt famously tested positive for betamethasone after the Derby and was disqualified from his win by Kentucky stewards, who also fined trainer Bob Baffert and suspended him 90 days. Baffert has served his suspension, but the appeal by Baffert and owner Zedan Racing of the other sanctions is ongoing.
Baffert announced eight days after the race that he had been informed of the positive test result, which at the time had not been confirmed by split sample analysis. At that time, he indicated he had no idea how betamethasone could have been present in the horse. Several days later, he said the horse had been treated daily with Otomax, a topical product formulated for dogs, to combat a skin rash. Otomax contains betamethasone valerate as one of its active ingredients, a fact that is notated on the exterior packaging and on the bottle. Baffert indicated that the horse had been battling the skin rash since just after his win in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 3. A photo of the affected area released to media on May 11 showed skin lesions consistent with a healing rash.
Medical records for Medina Spirit show that Otomax was dispensed in the colt’s name on April 9, 2021 and on April 19, 2021.
Baffert has long maintained that the colt received the ointment from his groom daily through the day before the May 1 Derby.
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Craig Robertson, attorney for Baffert, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Clark Brewster, who represents Zedan Racing, told the Paulick Report he thinks the lack of betamethasone finding is an example of how unpredictable topical drug administrations can be.
“That’s the vagaries of using a salve or an ointment,” said Brewster. “Most vets, and I’m talking about leading vets, couldn’t believe you could get a positive from a salve or an ointment. Vince Baker [Baffert’s veterinarian who prescribed the drug] testified that he’s had Otomax dispensed to horses literally hundreds, if not thousands of times, and nobody reported a positive.
“It depends on, was the horse washed that day before they took the test? Did the horse have more of a lesion on him as the days went on so they used more? Who’s to say? But that’s the arbitrariness and the unfairness of having a reported positive from a topical.”
Further, Brewster pointed out, there is nothing on the document listing the screening limit for betamethasone for the pre-race tests. He also indicated that other pre-race tests taken from Baffert horses ahead of that race did not find betamethasone.
Despite the test results, Brewster said he is confident ahead of the Aug. 22 hearing.
“I feel very good about the facts, and the rules,” he said. “Without a doubt, he will win. The question is when? And the answer is whenever someone applies the facts to the laws in an unbiased way.”
Read our previous reporting on discoveries from public information act requests in the case here and here.