Not for the first time in his long and storied career, Bob Baffert is looking to salvage his reputation.
A trainer with a history of failed drug tests in his horses, the veteran suffered the most damning testing fail of his career after Medina Spirit’s triumph in the Kentucky Derby.
The winner was found with a higher-than-threshold level of betamethasone in his blood, and officials have threatened Baffert with disqualification if further testing does not go his way.
The trainer and the horse’s owner, Amr Zedan, have now taken out an injunction that would prevent Medina Spirit from being scrubbed from the Kentucky history books. The argument is that the positive sample provided could have come as a result of a ‘legal’ medical ointment, rather than something more untoward.
However, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission are refusing to test all of Medina Spirit’s sample – they are only willing to relinquish a portion of it so that the evidence of the positive can be preserved.
“Despite all of the ink spilled about the science behind betamethasone and alleged exculpatory or mitigating circumstances, the issue in this matter is a simple one,” the KHRC wrote in their response to Baffert’s request.
“Plaintiffs want access to a split urine sample in order to perform tests for certain medications. The Commission stands ready, willing and able to provide this access. The current dispute between the parties is solely limited to the amount of the split urine sample to be provided.”
The connections of Medina Spirit, including Baffert’s legal team, were offered the opportunity to watch the sample being thawed and transported to an approved laboratory, however they refused on the grounds that further diluting the split sample was ‘alarming and directly violative’ of the custody and storage of samples.
The matter will now go to a hearing to decide whether or not a small part of the split sample will be subject to further testing, or whether Baffert’s team can use the whole thing as they seek to the trainer’s name once more.
Why Always Me?
Does Bob Baffert have a persecution complex, or is he simply tone deaf?
His horses have consistently failed drugs tests for banned substances in the past, and you wonder if his moment of ‘the boy who cried wolf’ is finally here.
The regularity of his failings have seen officials at the Churchill Downs ban Baffert from entering horses at the track for two years, while under the current punishment – if his appeal proves in vain – he will also be banned from making entries into the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derbies.
That is devastating for him, his connections and the race itself given that Baffert has won the renewal on seven separate occasions – the most of any trainer in history.
But 30 positive drug tests in his career, with half-a-dozen of those coming in the past 18 months, indicates a man who is either very, very unlucky….or who believes he is exempt from upholding the integrity of horse racing as a sport.