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Medina Spirit the Early Preakness favorite, but Baffert's horse must test clean to run

Publication date: May 11, 2021, 11: 35 hrs.

Last updated: May 11, 2021, 11: 35 h.

Steve Bittenbender

Medina Spirit, the colt whose Kentucky Derby victory less than two weeks ago hung in the balance due to a failed drug test, has been cleared for Saturday's Preakness Stakes thanks to an agreement between trainer Bob Baffert and the Maryland Jockey Club.

Medina Spirit Preakness
Medina Spirit, winner of the Kentucky Derby, gets out of a van Monday that transported him and two other Bob Baffert-trained horses to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The agreement reached Tuesday allows the horses to run this weekend, provided they pass a pre-race drug test. (Photo: Pimlico Race Course)

But as with the Derby win, Medina Spirit's Preakness entry is also not on firm ground. By agreement, blood was drawn from the colt and two other horses that Baffert plans to run at the Baltimore track this weekend for pre-race testing. A failed test means the horse will not run.

"The integrity of the sport is of the utmost importance to Mr. Baffert and by agreeing to this testing and monitoring scheme, he affirms his commitment and dedication to the sport," wrote Craig Robertson, Baffert's attorney, in a letter to MJC attorney Alan Rifkin.

There have been calls for the racing authorities of Pimlico and Maryland to follow the example of Churchill Downs and ban Baffert from riding his horses for the time being.

Craig Fravel, CEO of Pimlico-owned 1 / ST Racing (also known as The Stronach Group), said in a statement that the company shares concerns about horse safety . However, the track also wants to follow established protocols, and because Baffert has not yet been sanctioned by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, officials have allowed him to report horses with recorded incidents.

"We can't make stuff up on the fly and we believe that competitors, bettors and fans will understand the importance of following this rule." he said.

Baffert Backpedals on Betamethasone Claim

Prior to the announcement of the agreement, Baffert issued an astonishing statement Tuesday morning claiming that Medina Spirit had been receiving daily applications of an ointment that contained betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory agent that triggered the failed test after the Derby race.

Baffert said the failed test showed 21 picograms per milliliter. In Kentucky, the threshold is 10 picograms per milliliter.

On Sunday, when Baffert broke the news of the failed test, he stated rather emphatically that he never ordered the drug for the Medina Spirit. Tuesday's statement somewhat walked back those initial comments, and the Hall of Fame coach said an internal investigation had determined a possible source.

Medina After finishing second in the Santa Anita Derby last month, Spirit developed a rash. Baffert had his veterinarian examine the foal, and the doctor recommended Otomax, an antifungal ointment, to stop the rash and provide relief.

As recommended by the vet, Baffert's staff used topical treatment every day until the day before the Kentucky Derby.

I was informed yesterday that one of the substances contained in Otomax is betamethasone " he said. "While we do not know definitively that this was the source of the alleged 11 picograms (per millimeter) found in the Medina Spirit blood sample taken from the race, and our investigation continues. I have been told by equine pharmacology experts that this may explain the test results. "

However, he added that his investigation is ongoing, and that confirmation does not mean he believes the preliminary test results are accurate.

The Kentucky Racing Commission is also continuing to investigate the matter. If the split sample verifies the initial positive test, Medina Spirit's owners could lose $1.8 million in their purses and the colt could be stripped of his winnings.

The owner stands behind the coach's ambassador

While Baffert has received a lot of criticism from the racing community and outsiders about the Medina Spirit incident and record of alleged drug violations, one person who remains in his corner is the owner of Medina Spirit.

On Tuesday, Amr F. Zedana's lawyer issued a statement on his behalf saying he continues to support Baffert.

"I have reviewed the picture of the rash and fully understand the need for care and the good intentions of using the ointment provided by the vet ", the statement read.

Medina Spirit the Morning-Line Preakness Favourite

The agreement was reached just hours before Pimlico officials took the post Second Jewel in the Triple Crown. And despite the controversy, Medina Spirit was installed at the 9-17 favorite the morning after the third post was drawn for Saturday's race.

The Barnmate Concert Tour returned the outside gate in the 10-horse count and the morning line odds are 5-2. His participation is also contingent on passing a pre-race drug test, as is Beautiful Girl, Baffert's entry in Friday's Black Eyed Susan.

While his horses are in Baltimore, Baffert decided to fly home to California from Louisville, saying he didn't want the distraction of the race.

Besides Medina Spirit, only two other horses that ran in the Derby made it to Baltimore. One of them, Midnight Bourbon, is likely to be a major contender for the Baffert pair.

The Steve Asmussen-trained stallion by Tiznow finished sixth in the Derby but was in 14th place by the half-mile mark.

Other than the Run for the Roses, Midnight Bourbon has finished in the money in each of his other seven races, but his last win was in the Lecomte Awards in January. His odds for the morning line are 5-1.

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