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'Should probably have poured it down the sink': Legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas defends Bob Baffert

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BALTIMORE – Social media was buzzing Wednesday evening after D. Wayne Lukas defended fellow trainer Bob Baffert and suggested regulators who found betamethasone in Medina Spirit’s blood “should probably have poured it down the sink.”

The 85-year-old Lukas — six-time winner of the Preakness and among the eldest of statesmen in trainer circles — was unapologetic about his comments on a sunny and cool Thursday morning, holding court in a chair at the shady end of a stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course.

“If you’re old and rich and famous,” Lukas said, “you can say any f***ing thing you want.”

The horse racing community is still processing this week’s news about Medina Spirit, who tested positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone following his victory in the May 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Baffert said Tuesday the positive test may have been the result of an ointment used to treat dermatitis on Medina Spirit’s hind end.

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As the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission awaits results of a second test that will determine whether he is disqualified as the Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit is the 9-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s $1 million Preakness (6:47 p.m. post time).

Lukas has a long shot — 30-1 allowance winner Ram — in the Preakness and joked he’s assumed the added role of “Baffert spokesperson” this week. Baffert said he won’t attend the Preakness because he doesn’t want to be a distraction. Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes is handling the training of Medina Spirit and fellow Preakness contender Concert Tour.

Lukas hasn’t shied away from defending Baffert and created some controversy Wednesday when talking about Medina Spirit’s test.

“I would absolutely today tell my colleagues that we need to just dismiss this, throw it out, put the Derby winner back on the throne and move on,” Lukas said. “Obviously (21) picograms or whatever that horse had had no effect on the race or his performance. And every vet and every scientist and every lab will tell you that. You almost think the lab should probably have poured it down the sink in the first place.”

On Thursday, Lukas said the current testing is too sensitive.

“We went from the $65 test to the $350 test and kept the thresholds the same,” Lukas said. “So, boom, two picograms or whatever. I don’t even know how much that is. …

“Somebody has to step up and say, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. We need to look at these thresholds a little bit better.’”

Earlier this week, Dr. Mary Scollay of the Lexington, Kentucky-based Racing Medication and Testing Consortium clarified the testing, noting the measurement of 21 picograms is based on the amount found in one milliliter of blood. A horse has upwards of 50,000 milliliters of blood in the body.

“In terms of effect on the horse, I don’t know,” she said. “I can’t answer that. I don’t think anybody knows. Anybody who says it has no effect, that may be their belief, but there’s nothing to substantiate that.”

Legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas watches his horses train from the side of the track at Churchill Downs. April 23, 2021
Legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas watches his horses train from the side of the track at Churchill Downs. April 23, 2021

Lukas said he’s convinced Baffert didn’t cheat because “he doesn’t need to. He’s got the best two horses. He had the best horses in the Derby. He can beat ‘em with one leg tied up.”

Lukas said younger trainers may not feel comfortable speaking out about testing, but at least one voiced his opinion about Baffert via social media Wednesday.

Tim Glyshaw, who trains at Churchill Downs, Indiana Downs and Tampa Bay Downs, expressed frustration about Baffert receiving possible preferential treatment after having five drug violations since May of 2020. None has resulted in a suspension.

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“I would have the purse taken away, and I would be suspended for 15 days,” Glyshaw wrote on Twitter. “So why doesn’t (Baffert) get the same penalty? Because he has a lawyer on retainer and is deemed too big to punish, I suppose. …

“If the split comes back positive, let’s hope the Kentucky Racing Commission does the right thing and does what they would do to me or any everyday trainer for the same positive in Kentucky.”

In an opinion column for PaulickReport.com, Barry Irwin — co-owner of 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom — questioned whether Baffert has been emboldened by his relative lack of punishment.

“Arrogance in the case of Baffert is completely understandable,” Irwin wrote. “Why wouldn’t he be arrogant? He keeps getting in trouble and he keeps escaping unscathed. When this happens time after time after time after time, the escapee tends to become a bit unwary of possible pitfalls that might stand in his way.”

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

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Bob Baffert defended by fellow trainer D. Wayne Lukas