Editor’s note: Bob Baffert issued this statement exclusively to NBC Sports ahead of the 146th running of the Preakness Stakes. The full statement is below.
As Medina Spirit prepares to run in the Preakness Stakes today, I want to keep the focus on this amazing equine athlete and not me, which is the primary reason I will not personally be in attendance. I do not want to serve as a distraction to what has always been of paramount importance – the joy of this great sport and the horses that make it possible.
As I have stated from the beginning, there was never any attempt to game or cheat the system and Medina Spirit earned his Kentucky Derby win. While the presence of 21 picograms of an allowable therapeutic medication has yet to be confirmed by the split sample analysis, it would have nothing to do with Medina Spirit’s hard earned and deserved win. That win was the result of the horse’s tremendous heart and nothing else.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, I acknowledge that I am not perfect and I could have better handled the initial announcement of this news. Medina Spirit’s Kentucky Derby win was so personally meaningful to me, and I had such a wonderful experience on May 1 at Churchill Downs, that when I got the news of the test results, it truly was the biggest gut punch I had ever received and I was devastated. That, coupled with the fact that I always try to be accommodating and transparent with the media, led to an emotional press conference on May 9 in which I said some things that have been perceived as hurtful to some in the industry. For that I am truly sorry. I have devoted my life’s work to this great sport and I owe it, and those who make it possible, nothing but an eternal debt of gratitude.
For those who want an explanation for what transpired with Medina Spirit, I have tried to be open and transparent from the beginning. Our investigation is continuing and I don’t have definitive answers at this point. What I do know is that neither my barn, nor my veterinarians, directly treated Medina Spirit with the anti-inflammatory medication betamethasone. Even though it is allowable, it is just not something we have ever used with this horse. The only possible explanation that we have uncovered to date – and I emphasize the word possible – is that betamethasone is an ingredient in a topical ointment that was being applied to Medina Spirit to treat a dermatitis skin condition he developed after the Santa Anita Derby.
I have been deeply saddened to see this case portrayed as a “doping” scandal or betamethasone labeled as a “banned” substance. Neither is remotely true. Betamethasone is an allowable and commonly used medication in horse racing. Further, 21 picograms would have zero pharmacology in a horse. All I ask is that everyone not rush to judgment and allow all of the facts, evidence and science to come to light.
Lastly, while this has been extremely hard and emotionally draining on me and my family, today is not about Bob Baffert. Instead it is about Medina Spirit and all of the other equine athletes in our tremendous sport. I hope that everyone will direct their attention to them and give them the love and respect they so richly deserve.