BALTIMORE – Medina Spirit ran on Saturday against more than nine rivals on the track. He took on a former president who called him a “drug addict,” a late-night comic book artist, and a public skeptical of his natural talent after won the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, but he did not fail a drug test after.
Kilometer three and sixteen, Medina Spirit hovered around the Pimlico racetrack, leading for the most part. But so much hung in the balance: the foal’s reputation; another record for his absent coach, Bob Baffert; and the credibility of an old and tormented sport that very much needs to change.
In the end, that burden was too heavy for Medina Spirit.
Instead, a longtime foal named Rombauer rolled down the middle of the lane like a riverboat released on the downstream of the Mississippi River and won by three and a half lengths. Medina Spirit faded to third and Midnight Bourbon finished in second.
Many believe the real horse won. Purebred race instructors, in particular, cheered for anyone but Medina Spirit, after a failed drug test in foals.
This did not diminish the sense of accomplishment that Rombauer coach Michael McCarthy or his jockey Flavien Pratt felt in the circle of winners. McCarthy, a former assistant coach to Todd Pletcher, fought back tears absorbing the enormity of his first win in the Triple Crown race.
“It just shows you that even small players in the game can be successful,” said McCarthy, who runs a modest barn based in California. “It was like an out-of-body experience.”
For Pratt, the Frenchman, it was a delayed turn of the star.
He won the Kentucky derby in 2019 – somehow. Maximum Security crossed the finish line ahead of him at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. But Maximum safety is disqualified due to interference at the turn for home, and Pratov’s foal, Country House, was elevated to first place.
“I feel different,” Pratt said. “I realize how important that is.”
Rombauer’s victory calmed the circus that surrounded Medina Spirit’s positive test for the drug betamethasone, a corticosteroid injected into joints to reduce pain and swelling, and moved him to New York and Belmont Stakes the following month.
Churchill Down officials have made it clear that if the second sample confirms the presence of drugs, the foal will be disqualified and Mandaloun, runner-up, will be declared the winner.
The results of that sample are not yet known, and Baffert was entitled to send another sample to the laboratory of his choice. That result is expected which will be known in the coming weeks.
John Velazquez, who rode Medina Spirit, came to defend the foal after Preakness. He knows that his fourth triumph in the Derby is in jeopardy. At 49, Velazquez is tied for a Derby win with Bill Shoemaker and lags behind Eddie Arcar and Bill Hartack. Until it is.
“He didn’t stop,” Velazquez said of Medina Spirit. “He just got beaten up.”
And where was Baffert?
On May 9, after announcing a failed drug test, Baffert said that in no way could he or his stable be responsible for giving Medina Spirit steroids, and promised to be transparent. He gave a series of television and radio interviews, floating various theories about how the foal had a positive test for betamethasone.
On Monday, Baffert criticized Churchill Downs’ suspension for “harsh” accusationcancel the culture“Because of the controversy, he said that racing officials came out to pick him up.
On Tuesday, however, he admitted to treating Medina Spirit against rashes using an antifungal ointment called Otomax, which contained betamethasone, every day for several weeks.
Last fall, after a series of high-profile drug violations – five in 13 months and a total of 30 – Baffert said he hired Dr. Michael Hore, a veterinarian at the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky, to ensure compliance with the rules and welfare of his horses. However, over the past week, Baffert’s lawyer said the vet was never actually hired.
So Baffert stayed in California and avoided questions about who prescribed the drug and how long it was applied to Medina Spirit. The photos show that the drug is clearly marked on the ointment packaging. Veterinarians said it is used mainly to remove ear infections in dogs and other small animals.
Baffert denied several requests from the New York Times to publish records of his stallion.
Instead, Medina was treated like a pillow last week.
Baffert and the owners of Pimlica could only do in sports without central government and randomly enforced rules. reach an agreement to allow for expanded drug testing as a way to allow foals to run this weekend. Three rounds of blood and urine were taken from Medina Spirit for tests, which he passed.
While Baffert remained withdrawn in California, the sentimental McCarthy shortened his press conference with a sentence probably familiar to casual horse racing fans everywhere.
His 11-1 hit paid $ 25.60 for a $ 2 bet, and a $ 600,000 first-place check knocked Rombauer’s account to more than $ 900,000 for his owners, John and Diane Fradkin.
“I went to the rehearsal barn,” McCarthy said, referring to the place where urine and blood samples are taken.
Anyone who loves horse racing holds their breath to get those tests back clean.