Embattled Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit was treated with an ointment that included a steroid which might have led to its failed drug test, the colt’s trainer said Tuesday.
The disclosure by trainer Bob Baffert marked a 180-degree turn from the Hall of Fame horseman’s categorical denial that Medina Spirit had ever been treated with betamethasone, which showed up in the horse’s system after winning the Derby on May 1.
After the 3-year-old finished second at the Santa Anita Derby on April 3, Medina Spirit “developed dermatitis on his hind end” before a veterinarian “recommended the use of an anti-fungal ointment called Otomax,” Baffert said in a statement.
“Yesterday, I was informed that one of the substances in Otomax is betamethasone,” according to Baffert’s statement.
“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, and our investigation is continuing, I have been told by equine pharmacology experts that this could explain the test results. As such, I wanted to be forthright about this fact as soon as I learned of this information.”
Baffert on Sunday revealed that Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, which put his Derby win in question. Officials at Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby is run, said shortly after Baffert’s announcement that he would be suspended indefinitely from the track.
Baffert had flat-out denied that Medina Spirit was given betamethasone.
“The really troubling thing is … is that the horse has never treated with that specific drug,” Baffert told Peacock Network’s “The Dan Patrick Show” on Monday. “So we’re at a loss for words, trying to figure out how he got contaminated.”
Betamethasone is legal but any traces of that drug must be out of horse’s system by the time it races, under Kentucky racing codes.
The steroid can help a horse manage pain and inflammation, but could dangerously mask more serious bone and joint issues.
Mary Scollay, executive director and chief operating officer of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, said she found it hard to believe Baffert and his veterinarian weren’t aware betamethasone was in this medication.
“It’s on the tube,” an incredulous Scollay told NBC News on Tuesday. “It’s almost an aggravating circumstance at this point.”
Medina Spirit is entered in the Preakness Stakes, the middle jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown, which is set for Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.