Almost two weeks after the announcement that Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone after the race, the colt’s connections have not ordered the second half of the sample to be tested by a laboratory.
Trainer Bob Baffert’s Kentucky attorney, Craig Robertson, declined to comment when contacted by Horse Racing Nation Thursday evening, other than to say, “We’re still trying to work out issues related to it with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.”
The Louisville Courier-Journal reported Tuesday that the sample remained in the hands of Medina Spirit's connections.
The report noted that connections have three business days to request for a split sample to be tested, under regulations of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. But there is no time limit for connections, in this case trainer Baffert and owner Amr Zedan, to select an accredited lab to process the test.
Baffert could not be reached for comment nor could Zedan’s attorney, Clark Brewster.
When Baffert announced the initial result on May 9, he said he intended to “thoroughly and transparently investigate the matter to determine how this could have happened. We will have the split sample analyzed and DNA testing performed. That will be the first step in the process.”
So why the wait?
Robertson initially chalked up the delay to due diligence on their part. “No delays. No roadblocks,” Robertson told the Courier-Journal in an email. “Given the importance of the matter everyone is rightfully proceeding carefully and thoughtfully to make sure everything is done right.”
Baffert’s team has since said the betamethasone might have gotten into Medina Spirit's bloodstream through the use of an ointment to treat a condition on the colt's rear end.
Dr. Mary Scollay, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, told Horse Racing Nation on Thursday that the KHRC regulation “does not mandate a maximum time period during which the split has to go out. And so, once the trainer is notified of the split sample choices, the commission can say, 'Would you please pick?' But there can’t be any ‘or else.’ There is no ‘or else,’ because there is no provision in the regulation to require a laboratory selection within a specific period of time.”
Scollay told the Courier-Journal, “I imagine the initial strategy was, ‘Let’s see if we can drag our feet so that the split isn’t back before the Belmont,’ thinking that (the New York Racing Association) would be less willing to issue a suspension if it weren’t a fully confirmed finding in Kentucky,” Scollay said on Wednesday. “But since that’s not how (NYRA) moved, I don’t know how that impacts the urgency or lack thereof in running the split.”
With the Triple Crown no longer even the slightest of possibilities after Medina Spirit's third-place finish in the Preakness, NYRA announced on Monday that Baffert was suspended from entering horses in races and occupying stall space at Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack.
“In addition to the ongoing investigation into Medina Spirit’s victory in the Kentucky Derby, NYRA has taken into account the fact that other horses trained by Baffert have failed drug tests in the recent past, resulting in the assessment of penalties against him by thoroughbred racing regulators in Kentucky, California and Arkansas,” NYRA said in its announcement.
“NYRA expects to make a final determination regarding the length and terms of Baffert’s suspension based on information revealed during the course of the ongoing investigation in Kentucky, such as the post-Kentucky Derby test results of Medina Spirit.”
Scollay, formerly the equine medical director for the KHRC, did not provide an opinion on the unspecified time period allowed by the commission's regulation.
But, she said, “I would imagine that given the scrutiny that is being applied to the situation that the commission will go back and re-evaluate and may very well elect to put in some decision or action time requirements. But I'm not with the commission anymore. I don't have access to the current thought processes. So that's just me speculating, sort of working from the outside in with what's going on right now.”
Dr. Bruce Howard, equine medical director for the KHRC, could not be reached for comment.