By Richard Rosenblatt
Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit is set to be entered in the Preakness Stakes on Tuesday afternoon (May 11) and a victory would set up a Triple Crown try in the Belmont Stakes on June 5.
Medina Spirit, along with stablemate Concert Tour, arrived at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Monday afternoon after a 600-mile van ride from Louisville, Kentucky.
Their Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, however, was on his way back to California, where he plans to watch Saturday’s race, whatever may happen over the next few days. Not the usual plan since Baffert enjoys the Preakness more than any other Triple Crown race.
But as the racing world, and those outside the horsey sphere, knows by now, Medina Spirit failed a Derby post-race medication test that could cause a disqualification if a second sample comes back positive.
Another huge blow to the sport and to Baffert, the 68-year-old, white haired face of racing who has dominated Triple Crown races over the past 25 years – a record-setting seventh Derby win on May 1; a record-equaling seven Preakness victories; and a pair of Triple Crown champions in American Pharoah and Justify.
The Preakness post-position draw was pushed back from Monday to Tuesday (4 p.m. ET), but it’s not clear as of early Tuesday morning whether the Maryland Jockey Club/The Stronach Group will allow Medina Spirit to be entered. For now, while waiting for the second sample results (which may not come until after the Preakness), Baffert is prohibited from entering horses at Churchill Downs, Preakness officials are deciding what to do, and Baffert’s attorney said he’ll go to court if Medina Spirit is prohibited from running.
On Sunday at Churchill Downs, Baffert held a press conference to announce that Medina Spirit had tested positive for the regulated substance betamethasone. He said the horse had never been given the anti-inflammatory, and then a day later said he would not attend the Preakness because he didn’t want to be a distraction. Longtime assistant Jimmy Barnes will sub for Baffert.
“I don’t want to be there,” Baffert told the Albany Times-Union. “I don’t want to be a distraction. I have always liked going to the Preakness. It’s my favorite race. Now, I just don’t want to deal with it.”
This is the fifth time in the past year that a Baffert-trained horse has tested positive after a race.
Churchill Downs issued a statement that said if the second sample comes back positive, he would be DQ’d from his Derby win and runner-up Mandaloun would be declared the Derby winner.
“My reputation has taken a hit for the last couple of years,” he told the Albany Times-Union. “When this happened, it was like, ‘This cannot be happening.’ This is like a nightmare.”
This would be the third DQ in Derby history – the second for a post-drug medication violation (the first was Dancer’s Image in 1968) and the second in three years (first-place finisher Maximum Security was DQ’d to 17th for interference in 2019).