Despite Medina Spirit’s alleged positive test for an elevated level of an anti-inflammatory medication, it could be weeks before Churchill Downs makes a formal decision on whether to invalidate the results of the 147th Kentucky Derby – one that may leave bettors on edge.
One week after Medina Spirit gave trainer Bob Baffert a record seventh Derby win, Churchill Downs indicated Sunday that second-place finisher Mandaloun will be declared the winner if the findings are upheld. But for bettors still holding a $100 win ticket on Mandaloun, the chances of collecting a hefty payout on the 26/1 longshot still remain slim.
Medina Spirit, a 3-year-old son of Protonico, reportedly tested positive for trace amounts of betamethasone, a corticosteroid used commonly to reduce joint pain in horses. Baffert, a Hall of Fame trainer, disputed the test results on Sunday morning outside his barn at Churchill Downs.
“I got the biggest gut punch in racing for something that I didn’t do,” Baffert said at a Sunday press conference. “I feel like I was wronged. We’re going to do our own investigation. We’re going to be transparent with the racing commission, like we’ve always been.”
Statement issued by trainer Bob Baffert through attorney Craig Robertson concerning Medina Spirit drug positive in Kentucky Derby pic.twitter.com/ffGWxzvGwG
— Ray Paulick (@raypaulick) May 9, 2021
Although the connections of Medina Spirit have the right to request a test of a split sample, the results of a second test may not be determined for several weeks. Under Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) regulations, two positive tests are needed before a horse can be disqualified from a race.
Medina Spirit could be the first Kentucky Derby winner to be disqualified due to a positive drug test in more than 50 years. In 1968, the owners of Dancer’s Image had their Kentucky Derby victory stripped following a positive test of phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. As with Baffert, the connections of Dancer’s Image disputed the findings of the test.
Medina Spirit’s post-race sample contained 21 picograms of betamethasone, Baffert said Sunday. The legally allowable threshold in Kentucky was lowered from 10 picograms to zero last August.
“Failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of the horse and the jockeys, the integrity of our sport and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby,” the company said in a statement. “Churchill Downs will not tolerate it.”
Retroactive payouts in Kentucky
Churchill Downs, which is regulated by the KHRC, complies with the pari-mutuel wagering rules set forth in state statutes and by the KHRC, the company said on its website. As such, the track’s policy on retroactive payouts in disqualifications stemming from medication violations appears to be in line with KHRC regulations.
When asked Sunday for clarification on payouts involving Mandaloun, a Churchill Downs spokesperson directed Sports Handle to the commission’s regulations on payments associated with pari-mutuel tickets. The regulations are found in Title 810, Chapter 6 of the commission’s administrative regulations on pari-mutuel wagering.
Section 10. Payment on Pari-Mutuel Tickets on Live Horse Races.
(2) Payment of valid pari-mutuel tickets shall be made on the basis of the order of finish as
declared “official” by the stewards or judges. A subsequent change in the order of finish or
award of purse money that may result from a subsequent ruling by the stewards, judges, or
commission shall not affect the pari-mutuel payout.
As a result, bettors who wagered on Medina Spirit will not be forced to return their winnings regardless of the outcome on the second test. Of the $155.4 million wagered in the Kentucky Derby pari-mutuel pool, about $12 million was bet on Medina Spirit, who went off at odds of 12/1. Bettors wagered an estimated $3-4 million on Mandaloun, based on his post-time odds of 26/1.
In addition, more than $20 million — $22.2 million to be exact — was wagered in the Kentucky Derby’s exacta pool. A $2 exacta on Medina Spirit-Mandaloun paid $503.60. An exacta on Mandaloun and third-place finisher Hot Rod Charlie likely would have paid much more. A 50-cent trifecta paid $848.45, while a $1 superfecta paid more than $9,450. With Mandaloun on top, payouts on all exotic bets including the Pick-3, Pick-4, and Pick-6, likely would have been considerably higher.
Matt Bernier, a prominent horse racing broadcaster and an analyst with NBC Sports, believes that paying bettors for prior results amended after the fact could open a can of worms that isn’t beneficial for anyone in the long run. In some instances, bettors may demand the return of tens of thousands dollars from lost multi-race wagers, placing tracks in a precarious position.
“It’s a slippery slope in this case knowing horseplayers aren’t playing against ‘the house’ … they’re playing against one another,” Bernier told Sports Handle.
Wagering is not affected. There are no retroactive corrections, it's impossible to recollect paid-out wagers and redisburse
— Erin Thompson (@Pan_Zareta) May 9, 2021
Moving on to The Preakness
Baffert may enter two horses in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, Medina Spirit and Rebel Stakes winner Concert Tour. In a statement released Sunday, the Maryland Jockey Club said in light of the post-race blood sample testing completed with Churchill Downs it is consulting with the Maryland Racing Commission on Medina Spirit’s entry.
Last month, two Maryland racetracks — Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park — became eligible to offer sports betting under legislation passed in the General Assembly. Maryland officials are hopeful that mobile sports betting will go live by the fall.
Baffert has won the Preakness seven times, including in 2015 and 2018, when American Pharoah and Justify captured the Triple Crown. Over the last year, five horses trained by Baffert have failed a drug test.
The Stronach Group is reviewing "relevant facts and information" concerning Medina Spirit's reported positive test following the Kentucky Derby.
The Maryland Jockey Club has rescheduled the Preakness Post Position Draw from Monday May 10 to Tuesday May 11 at 4PM ET. pic.twitter.com/hH3R1WDHnR
— TVG (@TVG) May 9, 2021