Famed horse racing coach Bob Baffert has been suspended from the New York Racing Association, disqualifying him from the final leg of the sport’s Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes.
Baffert awaits the results of a new test after his competitive Kentucky Derby champion Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone, which the racing association known as NYRA called a “banned corticosteroid,” earning the title of the horse question.
Thirteen horses have won the Triple Crown and the last two, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018, were trained by Baffert. But some recently failed drug tests, which the NYRA cited in its ruling.
NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a statement Monday that it is the association’s responsibility to put horse racing integrity first.
“To maintain a thriving full-blooded racing industry in New York City, NYRA must protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, betting audiences and racers,” said O’Rourke. “This responsibility requires action that is taken today in the best interests of thoroughbred racing.”
Final suspension terms will be determined based on Medina Spirit’s investigation into the Kentucky Derby. The racing association said it will not accept registrations or provide a stand to anyone who is meanwhile employed by Bob Baffert Racing Stables.
Gamine, one of Baffert’s other horses, tested positive for betamethasone in September. Last month, Baffert successfully appealed his 15-day ban from the Arkansas Racing Commission after two of his horses tested positive for the pain reliever lidocaine.
Baffert has said that Medina Spirit was treated for dermatitis with a topical ointment called Otomax, which contains betamethasone, which triggered the drug test positive.
“I am deeply saddened that this case is being portrayed as a ‘doping’ scandal or betamethasone as a ‘prohibited’ substance,” Baffert said in a statement on Saturday. “Neither is remotely true. Betamethasone is an acceptable and widely used drug in horse racing.”
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Veterinarians caution against excessive use of betamethasone as it could mask severe bone and joint injuries and lead to fatal collapses. Some states, including Kentucky, do not allow an amount of the drug to be in a horse’s body on race day.
Medina Spirit is no longer in the running for the Triple Crown, even if Baffert is allowed to compete in the Belmont Stakes on June 5th, as Rombauer unexpectedly won the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. A horse must win all three of the highly anticipated competitions to earn the rare award that often enables owners to sell their horses’ breeding rights for top dollars.
This is a developing story; Please check again for updates.