The New York Racing Association suspended legendary horse trainer Bob Baffert, essentially disqualifying him from the final portion of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes.
Baffert’s horse, Medina Spirit, failed a drug test after winning the Kentucky Derby. The trainer has faced challenges to compete in other races ever since, and an investigation surrounding the horse is currently underway.
NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke released a statement Monday saying that the group needs to protect the integrity of horse racing.
“In order to maintain a successful thoroughbred racing industry in New York, NYRA must protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public and racing participants,” O’Rourke said. “That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of thoroughbred racing.”
NBC News reported that the ultimate decision of the suspension will be decided on the results of the Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby investigation. “The racing association said it will not accept entries or provide stall space to anyone employed by Bob Baffert Racing Stables in the interim,” per the outlet.
Baffert said last week that the horse was given the anti-fungal ointment Otomax, which includes betamethasone.
The Courier Journal reported that the drug is legal when used as a therapeutic for horses, but betamethasone is illegal when discovered in a horse’s blood on the day of a race.
In a statement, Baffert said that Medina Spirit had gotten dermatitis after the Santa Anita Derby on April 3, which led the trainer to have his veterinarian look at the horse. According to Baffert, the veterinarian recommended he use Otomax.
Baffert said, “The veterinary recommendation was to apply this ointment daily to give the horse relief, help heal the dermatitis and prevent it from spreading. My barn followed this recommendation and Medina Spirit was treated with Otomax once a day up until the day before the Kentucky Derby.”
Baffert said that he discovered last week that Otomax includes betamethasone.
“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,” Baffert said. “As such, I wanted to be forthright about this fact as soon as I learned of this information. … I intend to continue to investigate and I will continue to be transparent.”
As reported by The Daily Wire, Baffert denied any wrongdoing earlier in the week and said that his horse had not been drugged.
“I never thought I’d have to be fighting for my reputation and this poor horse’s reputation. Because of the new regulations the regulators have put, they’re testing these horses at contaminated levels, and it’s been a horrible experience.”
“It did not happen, and that’s the really seriously troubling part of it,” he added. “[We’re hiring] investigators, but sometimes you never find out. It’s just a tragedy what happened in this race.”
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