The lawyer for hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert told Casino.org on Monday that talks continue with officials at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore as to whether his client will be able to enter Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.
No resolution was reached by Monday evening, Craig Robertson said via email.
It’s been a whirlwind day and a half for the sport of horse racing after Baffert announced Sunday morning at his Churchill Downs barn that Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test after the Derby.
That blood test showed the colt had 21 picograms of betamethasone per milliliter in his system. The allowable threshold under Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) rules is 10 picograms per milliliter.
Baffert has strenuously denied any wrongdoing and said that he’s never ordered that anti-inflammatory drug for Medina Spirit.
The specimen taken after the Derby was split into two samples. Baffert has requested the second sample be tested, and that will be handled by a different laboratory.
If that test confirms the first result, the Churchill Downs would disqualify Medina Spirit and name runner-up Mandaloun as the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner. While it would not change the betting outcome, Mandaloun’s connections would receive the nearly $1.9 million in prize money awarded to the winner.
It’s uncertain when that test would occur, but it’s unlikely it will happen before Tuesday’s 4 pm post position draw for the second jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown.
Robertson told the Thoroughbred Daily News that they would seek an injunction should officials bar Medina Spirit from the Preakness.
Baffert did say though that he would not attend the Preakness in person in order to avoid becoming a distraction at the race.
Baffert Makes Media Rounds
While he won’t go to Baltimore, Baffert did keep up the full-court media blitz Monday to defend himself and the horse.
He appeared on Fox News and criticized Churchill Downs for its decision Sunday to suspend him from entering horses at the Louisville track until the KHRC investigation was finalized.
At one point during his interview, he invoked the term “cancel culture,” the modern term for being banished quickly with little opportunity for the subject to defend themselves. It’s often used by critics in regard to how modern audiences react to negative news about celebrities and other popular figures.
This is not the first time he’s had to defend himself, although this by far is the highest-profile allegation.
On The Dan Patrick Show, he alluded to a potential failed test scenario involving a groom on cough syrup who then urinated on hay that was eaten by the horse.
In the past, he’s claimed that horses tested positive for lidocaine after someone touched them in the barn area after handling a pain patch.
That case, involving Gamine and Charlatan in Arkansas, eventually saw the horses’ disqualifications overturned. Racing officials there did fine him $10,000, though.
Ball in Stronach Group’s Court
The question of whether Pimlico will honor the Churchill Downs’ suspension is a murky one.
According to the Association of Racing Commissioners International, the model rule is that any “commission and the stewards/judges shall honor rulings from other pari‐mutuel jurisdictions regarding license suspensions, revocation or eligibility of contestants.”
However, it wasn’t the KHRC that suspended Baffert. It was a track, and Baffert and his team have claimed Churchill Downs has not given him due process.
The possibility of taking action against Churchill Downs is a possibility, but that’s a secondary issue, for now, Robertson said.
Our focus is on Pimlico at the moment,” Robertson told Casino.org in an email. “Bob has no horses ready to run this week at Churchill.”
According to the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program, Maryland’s rule calls for a suspension to be honored if it’s suspended in another state.
However, Pimlico is owned by The Stronach Group, the family owned company also known as 1/ST Racing that owns Santa Anita Park and several other tracks across the country. After dozens of horses died at Santa Anita in 2019, TSG started a national push to improve racing safety. That included a call for the stoppage of administering Lasix on race days.
The Stronachs also took the step of banning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer from their tracks after four of his horses died at the southern California track that year.
Santa Anita is also considered Baffert’s home track.
In a statement released by Pimlico on Sunday, The Stronachs and the Maryland Jockey Club said they planned to review the information from Churchill Downs before making a determination. Hours later, an announcement was made pushing back the post position draw from Monday to Tuesday afternoon.
“We are consulting with the Maryland Racing Commission and any decision regarding the entry of Medina Spirit in the 146th Preakness Stakes will be made after review of the facts,” the statement said.
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