John Velazquez leads Medina Spirit to win the 147th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Jamie Rhodes | USA TODAY Sports | Reuters
Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit’s second blood test confirmed the presence of the banned steroid betamethasone, an attorney for the horse owner told CNBC on Wednesday.
The second positive test sharp increases the chance that Medina Spirit’s victory on May 1st will be overturned by Kentucky race officials, and that Mandaloun, who finished second that day, will be declared the winner.
Clark Brewster, attorney for the horse’s owner, Amr Zedan, said officials are allowing the Medina Spirit team to have a third sample of the horse analyzed in another laboratory.
That test, Brewster said, could determine if there are any chemicals that would support the trainer’s claim Bob Baffert that the betamethasone may have come from an antifungal ointment applied to the horse rather than an injection.
If the third test gives that result, Brewster could argue that Medina Spirit will be disqualified from the Derby, the first jewel in the thoroughbred sport’s Triple Crown.
The attorney suggested also questioning the accuracy and protocol of the first official test and the second blood analysis known as the split sample.
“I haven’t seen the paperwork showing that even the primary or split tests were properly approved,” Brewster said.
The second failed test was first reported on Wednesday by the New York Times.
Brewster said that if a horse fails an initial drug test, a trainer usually has the option to send “the B sample” to a selected laboratory for a second confirmatory test for analysis.
For the Medina Spirit B sample, Brewster said the horse’s team “requested that both blood and urine be sent to such a laboratory.”
Medina Spirit’s coach Bob Baffert lifts the trophy after finishing 147th with Medina Spirit.
Andy Lyons | Getty Images
The lawyer said that if both substances were tested, the presence of chemical components could be detected that would indicate whether betamethasone was from an ointment.
“But she [racing officials] refused to send the urine, “Brewster said.” They only sent the blood. “
The lawyer said the Medina Spirit team was informed on Monday or Tuesday that the laboratory had found “betamethasone” in the split sample.
Brewster said the lab hadn’t released the steroid levels found in the blood “but they said it was there”.
“They estimated it was 25 picograms,” he said.
Baffert first revealed at a news conference on May 9 that Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid and said the first sample contained 21 picograms of betamethasone.
While this drug is legal for use as a therapeutic on a horse in Kentucky, any trace of it on race day is a reason for disqualification if a second test confirms it was in the blood that day.
A picogram is a trillionth of a gram, a point Brewster emphasized several times during a telephone interview on Wednesday.
The attorney said that in recent years testing laboratories have been able to detect tiny amounts of pharmaceutical substances, some of which may enter a horse’s or human’s system through accidental contact as opposed to deliberate administration.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will have the final say on whether Medina Spirit’s Derby win is invalidated.
“Hopefully they’ll make a reasonable judgment,” Brewster said.
“I think there will be consensus that this is a negligible amount that cannot have affected the race,” said the lawyer.
Baffert, who has failed five of his horses in drug tests so far this year, has been suspended indefinitely from the Churchill Downs Racetrack, where the derby is taking place, due to the first positive test from Medina Spirit.
Medina Spirit was later allowed to compete in the Preakness Stakes on May 15th in Baltimore, Stage Two of the Triple Crown, under an agreement that it and another Baffert-trained horse, Concert Tour, will undergo “rigorous testing and monitoring,” the Maryland Jockey Club said.
Medina Spirit came third in Preakness.
Medina Spirit will not be competing in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday in Long Island, New Yorkbecause Baffert was temporarily suspended from participating in this race, the third jewel of the Triple Crown or other major New York races, for the derby drug test positive last month.
Baffert has trained two Triple Crown winners. He has coached seven Kentucky Derby winners, including Medina Spirit.
Brewster later issued a formal statement on the latest drug test Wednesday.
“In response to inquiries, it confirms that Medina Spirit’s split sample confirmed the detection of betamethasone at 25 picograms,” Brewster said.
“Other tests will be done, including DNA testing,” said the lawyer.
“We expect these additional tests to confirm that the presence of betamethasone is from the Otomax topical ointment and not from an injection,” Brewster said.
“Ultimately, we expect this case to be about treating Medina Spirit’s rash with Otomax. We won’t have anything to say until the additional tests are completed.”
Kristin Voskuhl, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, said in a statement that the commission “does not provide any comments or updates on the state of the investigation.”
“The KHRC values fairness and transparency and will provide information to the media and the public upon completion of an investigation,” said Voskuhl.
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC and NBC Sports, which broadcast the Triple Crown races.