“Yesterday I got the biggest gut punch in racing for something that I didn’t do,” Baffert said, adding it was an “injustice to the horse.”
“I don’t feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged. But I’m going to fight it.”
Betamethasone is an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid that is allowed in horse racing at a certain level. But Baffert said he’d been informed that Medina Spirit’s postrace test detected 21 picograms per milliliter — more than double the legal threshold in Kentucky racing.
Churchill Downs on Sunday announced it would immediately suspend Baffert, barring him from entering horses to race at the track.
“Failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of the horses and jockeys, the integrity of our sport and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby and all who participate,” the Churchill Downs’ statement said.
The news comes just over a week after Medina Spirit, the 3-year-old brown colt won the Derby, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, beating out second-place Mandaloun by half a length. It was a record seventh victory for Baffert at the Derby, one of the sport’s most famous events.
As of Sunday, Medina Spirit had not been disqualified, Baffert said. A split sample from Medina Spirit will now be tested, and if the original results are confirmed, then Baffert would have a chance to appeal.
“To be clear, if the findings are upheld, Medina Spirit’s results in the Kentucky Derby will be invalidated and Mandaloun will be declared the winner,” Churchill Downs’ statement Sunday said.
“We will await the conclusion of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commissions’ investigation before taking further steps.”
Baffert alluded to previous controversies on Sunday — “I don’t feel safe to train,” he said — but cast the allegation about Medina Spirit as an issue with the broader horse racing industry, saying the industry “needs to step up and we need to do a better job in racing.”
“I’m not a conspiracy (theorist) — I know everybody’s not out to get me. But there’s definitely something wrong. Why is it happening, you know, to me?” he asked. “There’s problems in racing, but it’s not Bob Baffert.”
There is no word yet if Sunday’s announcement will affect plans for Medina Spirit to run in next Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown.