Baffert: Medina Spirit failed drug test because of skin cream

1620752781 Baffert Medina Spirit failed drug test because of skin cream
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The mystery surrounding how current Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit had a banned race-day medication in his system may have been solved. And it has to do with a skin rash.

Trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday that Medina Spirit had been receiving treatment for dermatitis on his hind end, which he contracted after the Santa Anita Derby on April 3.

“I had him checked out by my veterinarian, who recommended the use of an anti-fungal ointment called Otomax,” Baffert said in a statement released by his attorney Craig Robertson. “The veterinary recommendation was to apply this ointment daily to give the horse relief, help heal the dermatitis, and prevent it from spreading. My barn followed this recommendation and Medina Spirit was treated with Otomax once a day up until the day before the Kentucky Derby.”

Baffert said he learned Monday the ointment contains betamethasone, the legal anti-inflammatory that can’t be administered within 14 days of racing.

“While we do not know definitively that this was the source of the alleged 21 picograms found in Medina Spirit’s post-race blood sample,” Baffert said, “and our investigation is continuing, I have been told by equine pharmacology experts that this could explain the test results.”

On Sunday, Baffert announced that the 3-year-old colt tested positive for the drug and was emphatic that the horse has never been treated with betamethasone, which is normally administered into joints by injection as a way to lessen inflammation. However, the drug can be administered topically on humans and horses.

Neither horse nor trainer has been charged or disqualified pending the result of a split blood sample, which will be sent to an independent laboratory for testing. However, if this hypothesis is correct, the sample will assuredly contain the medication.

Baffert continued to push his side of the story.

“First, I had no knowledge of how betamethasone could have possibly found its way into Medina Spirit — until now — and this has never been a case of attempting to game the system or get an unfair advantage,” Baffert said.

“Second, horse racing must address its regulatory problem when it comes to substances which can innocuously find their way into a horse’s system at the picogram — trillionth of a gram — level. Medina Spirit earned his Kentucky Derby win and my pharmacologists have told me that 21 picograms of betamethasone would have had no effect on the outcome of the race.”

Two regulatory veterinarians contacted by The Times agree that the medication would not have affected performance.

Although that may have solved one mystery, it remains unclear whether the Maryland Jockey Club will allow the horse to run in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. The draw for the race is Tuesday afternoon, so a decision should come very soon.

It’s unclear if this information will have any effect on whether Medina Spirit will be disqualified or allowed to be the winner of the Kentucky Derby. Do veterinarians and trainers have a responsibility to know what is in the drugs that are administered? Or is ignorance of the substances a valid excuse?

In 2014, Princess of Sylmar, trained by Todd Pletcher, had a betamethasone positive in Delaware. Attorneys were able to successfully argue that the process behind establishing thresholds for the medication were inadequate and the case was dropped on the advice of the deputy attorney general.

Last year, Baffert trainee Gamine tested positive for the medication after finishing third in the Kentucky Oaks. The horse was disqualified and Baffert was fined $1,500.

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