NYRA Suspends Bob Baffert, Disallows Medina Spirit Entry Into Belmont Stakes

Written By Martin Harris on May 17, 2021 - Last Updated on April 28, 2022
The NYRA penalized Bob Baffert and Medina Spirit following the Kentucky Derby winner's failed drug test.

Horse races generally follow a fairly uncomplicated oval pattern. But this year’s Triple Crown races have included a few extra twists and turns, particularly for legendary trainer Bob Baffert.

Today the New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced the temporary suspension of Baffert from entering horses in races at the NYRA’s three thoroughbred tracks: Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course, and Aqueduct Racetrack.

If the suspension remains in place, Baffert will be unable to enter his horse Medina Spirit into the Belmont Stakes scheduled for June 5 at Belmont Park.

With Derby victory in doubt, Medina Spirit sidelined from Belmont

According to the NYRA, the temporary suspension resulted from the report of Medina Spirit testing positive for the banned corticosteroid betamethasone shortly after winning the Kentucky Derby on May 1.

That victory represented Baffert’s seventh horse to win the Kentucky Derby dating back to 1997, establishing a new all-time record. However, the result remains in doubt.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission continues to await split-sample results before rendering a final verdict on the race. Should the positive test be confirmed by the split-sample test, Medina Spirit would be stripped of the Derby title and the purse money withdrawn.

In that event, second-place finisher Mandaloun would be declared the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner.

In the announcement, NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said the decision was made in order to “protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public and racing participants.”

The NYRA added that the failed test at the Kentucky Derby was hardly an isolated incident for Baffert. Over the years Baffert has frequently been subject to penalties due to failed drug tests by horses he has trained. The NYRA listed penalties levied against Baffert by racing regulators in Kentucky, California, and Arkansas.

The suspension not only prevents Baffert from entering any horses in races at NYRA tracks. It also means the tracks will not provide any stall space to anyone employed by Bob Baffert Racing Stables.

Churchill Downs has imposed a similar temporary suspension of Baffert. The trainer cannot enter any horses in races at that track while the commission continues its investigation.

The NYRA suspension affects all other Baffert-trained horses as well. One, Concert Tour, raced in the </a>, finishing ninth of 10.

Baffert horse allowed to race in Preakness despite failed test

After winning the Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit finished third in last Saturday’s Preakness in Baltimore, the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.

In the Preakness, Medina Spirit went off as a 5-to-2 co-favorite along with Midnight Bourbon. Medina Spirit led the race before being overcome by 12-to-1 underdog Rombauer at the finish. Midnight Bourbon finished second.

The Maryland Jockey Club’s decision to allow Baffert and Medina Spirit to enter the Preakness came with controversy.

When announcing the decision, the club noted that as a condition of acceptance of entry, Baffert had consented to allow the Maryland Jockey Club “to allow for rigorous testing and monitoring in addition to that conducted by the Maryland Racing Commission.”

There has been no report of failed tests by Medina Spirit surrounding the horse’s participation in the Preakness Stakes.

The suspension of Baffert and removal of Medina Spirit adds to uncertainty surrounding the upcoming Belmont Stakes. Traditionally the announcement of the Belmont Stakes field occurs a few days before the race.

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