The controversy over the late Medina Spirit’s victory in the Kentucky Derby has been raging since May. With the case seemingly heading for a key moment on Monday, here’s what we know about the Derby drug drama’s past, present and future.
What has already happened?
On May 1, Medina Spirit, driven by Bob Baffert, won the Kentucky Derby. Shortly after, he tested positive for betamethasone, a corticosteroid that is not allowed in any amount on race day in Kentucky.
After initially denying using the drug, Baffert later said the Protonico foal was given a topical ointment known as Otomax, which contained betamethasone, to treat a skin condition. Baffert and his legal team claimed the ointment was legal in Kentucky because Medina Spirit had not been injected with betamethasone.
Related: Timeline: Baffert’s Kentucky Derby Drug Drama Continues
In order to prove the cause of the failed drug test, Baffert sued the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to force further Derby Day testing, a split urine sample. This legal action was successful and the coach’s legal team said it showed that Otomax was indeed the culprit.
The Derby case has still not been heard by Kentucky stewards, but a lawyer for the New York Racing Association revealed during a hearing to determine whether the coach will be suspended in New York, that a hearing had been planned.
When is this hearing?
Monday. A KHRC representative as well as one of Baffert’s lawyers did not confirm the time or whether the hearing will be held online or in person.
Is the hearing public?
What are the possibilities of judgment?
The stewards can disqualify Medina Spirit, making Mandaloun the official winner of the Derby, and punish Baffert. Any punishment given to the coach could be exacerbated by Gamine testing positive for the same substance after the Kentucky Oaks in September 2020.
For a second Class C drug (classification of betamethasone) positive within 365 days, the penalty listed in Kentucky state law is a suspension of 10 to 30 days and a fine of $1,500 to $2,500, in the absence of extenuating circumstances.
Stewards could also choose not to take any action.
When will it be returned and when will we know?
Maybe Monday. The same KHRC representative said the decision would be released “soon” after a decision is made.
So that’ll be the end of it all, won’t it?
According to Kentucky state law posted on the Commonwealth website, if Medina Spirit is disqualified or Baffert is punished, he may appeal to the KHRC. This could eventually lead to an administrative hearing of the commission, which would then make a decision.
Would this be the final decision?
No. According to state law“any licensee or applicant aggrieved by a final order of the racing commission may appeal to the Franklin Circuit Court.”
Presumably, the case could then be taken through the court system, theoretically all the way to the United States Supreme Court. However, the last off-track Derby disqualification, Dancer’s Image in 1968, was only appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
Hasn’t Baffert already been suspended?
Type of. Churchill Downs Inc. banned him from his tracks for two years ending after the 2023 Derby and declared his horses ineligible to earn Derby qualifying points. So far, Baffert has not challenged this ban in court, although he should.
As mentioned earlier, he also recently had a hearing with NYRA to help determine whether he will be suspended in New York. No decision has been made so far.
How long has the process taken in the past?
The results of the 1968 Derby were not finalized until June 30, 1972, when the state appeals court overturned a decision by Kentucky’s Franklin Circuit Court that would have upheld Dancer’s Image as the winner.