The New York Times reported Wednesday morning that a split sample from Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit, who crossed the wire first in this year’s Kentucky Derby, has confirmed the presence of betamethasone. A statement from Baffert’s lawyer, attorney Craig Robertson, said the confirmed concentration was 25 pg/ml.
One week after this year’s Derby, Baffert told media that he had been informed initial testing on post-race samples from Medina Spirit had detected the corticosteroid, which is not permitted for use within 14 days of a race in Kentucky. At the time, split sample testing had not yet been completed to confirm the finding.
Attorney Clark Brewster, who represents Medina Spirit owner Amr Zedan, revealed that the University of California-Davis performed the split sample test, which was aimed at confirming or denying the original finding of Industrial Laboratories.
Learn more about split sample testing in this May 21 feature.
Brewster told writer Joe Drape that UC-Davis did not do any further analysis on the sample to see whether it contained other substances that could give clues as to the origins of the betamethasone. (This type of additional analysis is not typically part of a split sample test.) Brewster will request further analysis be done on the post-race samples by a different laboratory.
Robertson released the following statement, which indicated DNA testing would also be done on the sample:
“In response to the inquiries, this will acknowledge that the Medina Spirit split sample confirmed the finding of betamethasone at 25 picograms. There is other testing that is being conducted, including DNA testing. We expect this additional testing to confirm that the presence of the betamethasone was from the topical ointment Otomax and not an injection. At the end of the day, we anticipate this case to be about the treatment of Medina Spirit’s skin rash with Otomax. We will have nothing further to say until the additional testing is complete.”
Baffert initially told media he did not know why the horse had betamethasone in its system, and cast suspicion that he was a victim of some kind of tampering or sabotage. Two days later, he announced that Medina Spirit had been treated with a topical cream that contained betamethasone while treating a skin rash on the horse’s hindquarters.
Betamethasone is a corticosteroid which is often used therapeutically to assist with reducing inflammation in equine joints, although it is also present in some topical applications like Otomax. Kentucky changed its regulations governing corticosteroid joint injections last August, pushing out the pre-race administration time to 14 days pre-race and removing the drug threshold from its code, meaning no level of the drug is acceptable in a post-race finding. (The commission said at the time that testing could not detect administrations farther than 14 days out.)
In the wake of the Santa Anita breakdowns, Kentucky was one of several states that began requiring private veterinarians to examine horses several days pre-race in addition to the traditional pre-race examination from commission veterinarians. Commission staff had expressed concern that additional pre-race veterinary exams taking place farther ahead of race time could be influenced by the anti-inflammatory effects of corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.
Baffert has had multiple high-profile therapeutic drug positives in the past year and a half, including one in Kentucky for betamethasone after the rule change when Gamine tested positive following the Kentucky Oaks.
Read more at the New York Times
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