Bob and Weave: Horse racing experts RT, Garrity and God's Tipster weigh in on Bob Baffert and Medina Spirit
The roses aren't smelling so sweet after Medina Spirit tests positive for the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone.
Hooptie Handicapper, Maiden America
Saying that a groom urinated in hay that the horse ate is the single biggest Hail Mary since Franco Harris caught the pass against Oakland. This would mean that he had to inject himself with the substance because it's useless in any other form.
Before The Derby, I asked Frank Mitchell of Datatrack International why Baffert ships his horses so late. Neither he nor I could reckon a legitimate reason why. Now that this event has surfaced and the pharmacological evidence has come to light, we have that question answered. What we don't know is could this be a bi-product of an agent that nefarious chemists concoct which is in front of the respective testing centers' abilities? Seemingly, without FBI intervention, Servis, Navarro and that circus wouldn't have been caught due to the complexity of drugs they were administering.
The question of whether Medina Spirit will run can be answered...it'll depend on whether Bob Baffert can keep his mouth shut. Certainly threatening litigation doesn't help his cause and perhaps lead to disavowing Medina Spirit from running under assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes.
As of noon CST on Monday, I'd give it 50/50 at best.
Garrity's Saturday Stakes, also writes Fridays and Sundays
Garrity will be discussing Bob Baffert and Media Spirit today (Monday) at 5:30 pm on By the Book. (#bythebookbets on Twitter)
Should Medina Spirit be disqualified from his win in the Kentucky Derby? And will he be?
These are two separate questions, and we’ll take the second one first, because it is easier: Yes, Medina Spirit should absolutely be disqualified. Medication rules exist for a reason, trainers are responsible for following them, and failure to do so merits automatic disqualification. A reluctance to enforce clearly-written regulations renders them utterly meaningless, and sets a very bad precedent when something similar happens in the future. This is true regardless of the cause of the failed drug test: It could very well be true that the presence of trace amounts of betamethasone in Medina Spirit’s system was unintentional, a result of environmental contamination or something else, but that should not affect the decision: A failed drug test must always and forever result in an automatic DQ, whether the race is the Kentucky Derby or a $3,000 claiming race on a Tuesday at Lickspittle Downs.
With regard to the first question, though, up until very recently, my answer would have been no – Medina Spirit would not be disqualified, as the sport’s various factions would have too many reasons to try to sweep the entire mess under the rug. The folks in Kentucky want to avoid embarrassment, to dodge scrutiny; and the folks in Maryland are desperate to maintain the marquee status of the biggest race on their biggest day of the year -- the only day of the year, in fact, when their tracks turn a profit. A lot of people have huge financial interests in keeping Medina Spirit the winner of Derby 147, and in the past, they would have been enough for the sport’s regulators to find an excuse to let the results stand.
But horse racing as a sport seems to have hit a crossroads: The people who run it have finally realized that the sport’s out-of-control and inexcusable drug problem has become an existential threat. And I get the sense that this change will lead to a different outcome than would have been the case five years ago, or even one year ago.
So yes, I think Medina Spirit will be disqualified. Some will howl; some will cheer; but within the context of fighting the profligate and inexcusable use of performance-enhancing drugs in horse racing, the decision will change virtually nothing. And that is something that has not changed: The ability of those in positions of responsibility in horse racing to do too little, too late, is as enduring as death, taxes, and Irad Ortiz horses at Saratoga being overbet.
I have been asked to give my opinion on the 2021 Kentucky Derby and the impending investigation into whether or not Medina Spirit should be disqualified.
Churchill Downs and every other racetrack around the United States has the responsibility to the racing world to disqualify any horse failing a drug test based on the rules outlined in it’s specific guidelines for its jurisdiction. Whether it’s Medina Spirit winning the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs or a bottom-level claimer winning at Parx, that level of guardianship and protection is a necessity at all racetracks. Without it, the sport of horse racing loses legitimacy with its ever dwindling fan base.
As a lifelong fan of the sport of horse racing, I say a little prayer for all horses and jockeys to return safely and soundly every year before the Kentucky Derby, not only for the welfare of the people and horses about to take the world stage but for the longevity of the sport. In a 20-horse field with adrenaline pumping, it only takes one wrong move for something catastrophic to happen and I personally don’t think that’s something racing can survive at this point here in the United States.
The outcome of the May 1, 2021 edition of the Kentucky Derby and it’s aftermath was the second worst case scenario for the sport. If Medina Spirit had betamethasone in his system that was above the allowable amount, he will be disqualified. Case closed. Churchill Downs had a tougher decision to make in 2019 when Maximum Security drifted and impeded War of Will. That was a judgement call I didn’t agree with but I respected the courage it took to make that decision.
Should Medina Spirit be disqualified? I’m no expert on betamethasone, but I imagine there are people who are who came up with the proper thresholds and reasoning behind making it a banned medication at race time. My personal opinion after reading up on it a little is that 21 pictograms is a minuscule amount and wouldn’t impact the performance of a 1200-pound race horse. This is one area the media members who are crucifying Bob Baffert haven’t discussed. That doesn’t change my opinion that if it’s a banned substance on race day – he should be disqualified.
The bigger problem lies in what to do going forward? This wouldn’t be the first disqualification of a Kentucky Derby winner for a medication infraction. In 1968, Dancer’s Image won the roses and was found to have phenylbutazone – a banned substance at the time – in his system. Controversy surrounded this decision as well and by the mid 80’s, phenylbutazone was not only allowed, but was one of the most commonly used medications in racing. It’s possible the same will happen with betamethasone someday but this is one of the many things that needs to be figured about by the racing industry as a whole.
Without a central, governing body to regulate horse racing in the United States, our sport is in trouble. Different tracks have different rules and some play favorites and there’s no confidence that the bettors are being protected. The trainers of the first 4 finishers of the 2021 Kentucky Derby, Baffert, Brad Cox and Doug O’Neill are trainers that regular handicappers and lifelong fans of the sport accuse of cheating on a daily basis. Bettor confidence is at an all time low. It’s time for horse racing to unify and evolve or become a memory of a sport that used to be.