'I am truly sorry': Bob Baffert issues apology for handling of Medina Spirit announcement

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Medina Spirit's trainer Bob Baffert talks with the media during Kentucky Derby week. Medina Spirit tested positive for an abundance of an anti-inflammatory drug following the race. April 26, 2021
Medina Spirit's trainer Bob Baffert talks with the media during Kentucky Derby week. Medina Spirit tested positive for an abundance of an anti-inflammatory drug following the race. April 26, 2021

BALTIMORE — Trainer Bob Baffert issued a statement before Saturday’s Preakness in which he apologized for his handling of the announcement of Medina Spirit’s positive drug test following his Kentucky Derby victory.

Last Sunday, a week after Medina Spirit’s win in the in May 1 Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs, Baffert announced the horse had tested positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone. Adamant the horse never had been treated with the corticosteroid, Baffert recanted two days later when saying Medina Spirit had been treated several days with Otomax.

The ointment, which lists betamethasone as an ingredient, was used to treat dermatitis on Medina Spirit’s hind end, Baffert said.

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“I acknowledge that I am not perfect, and I could have better handled the initial announcement of this news,” Baffert said in a six-paragraph statement. “Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby win was so personally meaningful to me, and I had such a wonderful experience on May 1 at Churchill Downs that when I got the news of the test results, it truly was the biggest gut punch I had ever received and I was devastated.

“That, coupled with the fact that I always try to be accommodating and transparent with the media, led to an emotional press conference on May 9 in which I said some things that have been perceived as hurtful to some in the industry. For that, I am truly sorry. I have devoted by life’s work to this great sport, and I owe it and those who make it possible nothing but an eternal debt of gratitude.”

Not wanting to be a distraction amid the controversy, Baffert chose to stay home in California instead of traveling to Pimlico Race Course for the Preakness.

Assistant Jimmy Barnes was in charge of the horses during the week. Medina Spirit led early but faded to third place in the Preakness. Concert Tour finished ninth in the 10-horse field.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and Churchill Downs are awaiting results of a second test to determine whether Medina Spirit will be disqualified as the Kentucky Derby winner. Those results are not expected back for several weeks.

Baffert said again Saturday he did not “attempt to game or cheat the system” with Medina Spirit.

“I have been deeply saddened to see this case portrayed as a ‘doping’ scandal or betamethasone labeled as a ‘banned’ substance,” Baffert said. “Neither is remotely true. Betamethasone is an allowable and commonly used medication in horse racing. Further, 21 picograms would have zero pharmacology in a horse. All I ask is that everyone not rush to judgment and allow all of the facts, evidence and science to come to light.”

While betamethasone is allowed as a therapeutic drug, it’s presence in a horse’s blood on race day is a violation.

Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; jfrakes@courier-journal.com; Twitter: @KentuckyDerbyCJ.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Bob Baffert apologizes for handling of Medina Spirit's drug violation