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Legendary trainer Bob Baffert denied knowingly cheating for last year’s Kentucky Derby win and revealed he’s still fighting to restore Medina Spirit’s victory.
Baffert received a 90-day suspension over Medina Spirit’s failed post-race drug test, and the discipline was upheld ahead of this year’s Kentucky Derby. The horse tested positive for betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory medication.
Jockey Mike Smith talks with trainer Bob Baffert after winning the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs May 3, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan, File)
The drug must clear a horse’s system at least 14 days before a race. While it supposedly has lesser potential to influence performance, any level of detection on race day is a violation. The horse’s win was stripped and given to Mandaloun.
Baffert was denied entry to any races at Churchill Downs through mid-2023 but told ESPN a day before this year’s race he’s still fighting the rulings.
“Who would’ve thought an ointment — an ointment — took down the Kentucky Derby winner,” he told the outlet. “That’s just not right. And that’s something that we’re going to, you know, we’re gonna fight vigorously to save that horse’s Kentucky Derby, because he … deserved the win.”
Baffert said it was “tough” to see his name taken down from the stables at Churchill Downs.
After the horse’s death in December, he said he was trying to fight for the horse’s legacy.
“I think the main thing is to save the legacy of Medina Spirit. That’s what I’m fighting for. And I want to fight for the sport. The legacy of the sport. The sport is a great sport. It’s on the up and up. I think it’s cleaner now than it ever has been,” Baffert said.
“I just think that people are getting the wrong information, and the word needs to get out there.”
Trainer Bob Baffert walks out to the winner’s circle after the Brooklyn Invitational Stakes horse race at Belmont Park June 9, 2018, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
Baffert has vehemently denied knowingly cheating in Medina Spirit’s win. He said the ointment given to the horse had “zero impact” on his performance.
“They’re still running with a false narrative. And it takes a while to change that, especially, you know, the biased reporting against me. … I’m still dealing with that,” Baffert said. “But, in time — like I said — when we get to a neutral, fair … we just need someone with common sense, fairness to listen to this — and we have the facts, tests. We have everything. It’s all there”
Two of Baffert’s former horses will be running in the Derby — Messier and Taiba. Tim Yakteen is their trainer. He’s has had no contact with Baffert.
Animal Wellness Action Executive Director Marty Irby praised the track in a statement.
“We applaud Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for taking positive steps to help bring integrity back to the ‘fastest two minutes in sports,’” Irby said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “The absence of Lasix and other drugs, coupled with infamous trainer Bob Baffert’s suspension following a failed drug test with Medina Spirit last year, and Churchill’s support of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, puts the ‘Run for the Roses’ in a much better light than we’ve seen in recent years.
Horse trainer Bob Baffert leaves federal court July 12, 2021, in Brooklyn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
“If American horse racing and the Kentucky Derby are to maintain credibility as a legitimate sport and signature event, these types of reforms must continue, and bad actors like Baffert must be held accountable at every turn. We hope the 148th Kentucky Derby is the safest and soundest we’ve ever seen.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.