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Churchill Downs suspends trainer Bob Baffert for two years

Medina Spirit's trainer Bob Baffert talks with the media during Kentucky Derby week. Medina Spirit tested positive for an abundance of an anti-inflammatory drug following the race. April 26, 2021

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Medina Spirit’s trainer Bob Baffert talks with the media during Kentucky Derby week. Medina Spirit tested positive for an abundance of an anti-inflammatory drug following the race. April 26, 2021 Af5i8224

Churchill Downs Racetrack has suspended Bob Baffert for two years after the New York Times reported earlier Wednesday that the Hall of Fame trainer’s Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit had failed a second drug test for the banned steroid betamethasone.

The suspension means that no horse trained by Baffert or by Bob Baffert Racing Stables can race at any track owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated through the conclusion of the 2023 Spring Meet at Churchill Downs. That meet includes the Kentucky Derby, the first jewel in thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown.

“CDI has consistently advocated for strict medication regulations so that we can confidently ensure that horses are fit to race and the races are conducted fairly,” Bill Carstanjen, the CEO of Churchill Downs, said in a statement. “Reckless practices and substance violations that jeopardize the safety of our equine and human athletes or compromise the integrity of our sport are not acceptable and as a company we must take measures to demonstrate that they will not be tolerated.

“Mr. Baffert’s record of testing failures threatens public confidence in thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby. Given these repeated failures over the last year, including the increasingly extraordinary explanations, we firmly believe that asserting our rights to impose these measures is our duty and responsibility.”

Medina Spirit beat Mandaloun by a half-length to win the Kentucky Derby on May 1. Seven days later, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission informed Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes that Medina Spirit showed elevated levels of betamethasone.

On May 9, Baffert confirmed to reporters outside his Churchill Downs barn that Medina Spirit had failed his post-Derby drug test. Baffert suggested multiple theories — blaming cancel culture at one point — to explain the test result.

Earlier Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Medina Spirit’s positive, post-victory drug test following the Kentucky Derby was confirmed by a second sample.

Baffert, 68, has won the Kentucky Derby a record seven times.

The only Derby-winning horse to have its victory reversed for a failed drug test is Dancer’s Image, which won the Run for the Roses in 1968.

–Field Level Media