Ointment led to Medina Spirit’s failed test after Kentucky Derby

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Urine testing of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit has shown that a steroid present in the colt’s system came from a topical ointment and not an injection, according to an attorney for trainer Bob Baffert.

Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone after winning the May 1 race and is facing disqualification. Baffert had said an ointment used to treat the colt for a skin condition daily up until the Derby included the substance. Betamethasone is a legal substance, but it is not allowed on race day in Kentucky, Maryland and New York, home to the Triple Crown series.

Craig Robertson, Baffert’s attorney, said late Friday that testing of the split sample was completed by a lab in New York.

“It has now been scientifically proven that what Bob Baffert said from the beginning was true – Medina Spirit was never injected with betamethasone and the findings following the Kentucky Derby were solely the result of the horse being treated for a skin condition by way of a topical ointment – all at the direction of Medina Spirit’s veterinarian,” Robertson said in an email.

Robertson said the betamethasone in an injection is betamethasone acetate, while the betamethasone in the topical ointment is betamethasone valerate. He said Kentucky’s racing rules only regulate betamethasone acetate.

Robertson said the New York lab’s testing confirmed both the presence of betamethasone valerate and the absence of betamethasone acetate.

“This should definitively resolve the matter in Kentucky and Medina Spirit should remain the official winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby,” Robertson said. “Since May, Mr. Baffert has been the subject of an unfair rush to judgment. We asked all along that everyone wait until the facts and science came to light.”

An attorney for Medina Spirit’s owner, Amr Zedan, also confirmed the results of the split-sample testing by Dr. George Maylin, director of the New York Drug Testing & Research Program.

“The Kentucky Racing Commission has steadfastly enacted rules relating to corticosteroid joint injection and have drawn a bright line rule that no injections are permitted within 14 days of a race,” attorney Clark Brewster said. “Now there is zero doubt that the 14-day rule some thought might have been violated by the earlier, less specific testing is revealed as premature judgment. That groundless accusation is without scientific merit.”

Still to be decided, however, is if the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will determine that the test proving the drug was given via ointment and not injection could create enough doubt to get Medina Spirit’s positive test tossed out.

Trainers are held responsible for post-race drug findings, although Robertson successfully argued earlier this year that two drug violations involving Baffert horses in Arkansas in 2020 were the result of accidental contamination. The state racing commission threw out Baffert’s suspensions and restored the purse money while limiting his punishment to fines.

In the wake of Medina Spirit’s failed test, Baffert was suspended by Churchill Downs and barred from entering horses in the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derbies. He also was banned by the New York Racing Association from entering horses at its Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct tracks.

Medina Spirit went on to finish third in the Preakness after the colt was subjected to three rounds of prerace testing to be able to compete. The colt most recently finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar last month.

Baffert has had five violations involving impermissible levels of medication in his horses over the past 13 months.

Jason Servis, trainer of Maximum Security, pleads guilty to drugging his horses

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NEW YORK – Trainer Jason Servis, whose horse Maximum Security was the 3-year-old champion in 2019, pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges involving a widespread scheme to drug horses.

The 65-year-old New Jersey-based trainer faces four years in prison when he is sentenced next May in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He was the last defendant facing charges in the scheme, and now 23 of the 31 individuals charged have pleaded guilty.

Servis pleaded guilty in connection with his role in the distribution of adulterated and misbranded drugs intended for use on horses in his stable.

“Servis’ conduct represents corruption at the highest levels of the racehorse industry,” Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “As a licensed racehorse trainer, Servis was bound to protect the horses under his care and to comply with racing rules designed to ensure the safety and well-being of horses and protect the integrity of the sport.”

Servis’ attorney, Rita Glavin, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Servis was charged in 2020 after a wide-ranging investigation into doping in the horse racing industry. Racing authorities suspended his trainer’s license.

Maximum Security finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby but was disqualified for interference during the running of the race. The colt finished first in the $10 million Saudi Cup shortly before Servis’ arrest in March 2020. Saudi officials later withheld the winner’s share of the purse, citing Servis’ arrest and indictment.

“I don’t take any solace in other peoples misery, actually quite the opposite I feel some empathy for them,” Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Graham Motion tweeted, “but the reality is that those of us who were beaten by Jason Service’s (sic) horses have little to show for it other than losing money, owners and horses due to his success.”

Another New Jersey-based trainer, Jorge Navarro, is serving a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty a year ago. Eleven of the defendants were trainers and seven were veterinarians.

Servis is the brother of trainer John Servis, who trained Smarty Jones to victories in the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness before the colt lost his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont.

Irad Ortiz sets single-season record with 77th stakes win

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NEW YORK – Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. earned his record 77th single-season North American stakes victory when he guided Dr B to victory in the $200,000 Go for Wand at Aqueduct.

The 30-year-old native of Puerto Rico broke the old mark of 76 set by the late Hall of Fame rider Garrett Gomez in 2007.

“This is great. Amazing feeling,” said Ortiz, Jr., who won the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey from 2018-20. “Gomez did it in 2007 and he was a great rider, one of the best in the game. I’m so happy just to be a part of this. I love this sport.”

Ortiz Jr. won the Belmont Stakes with Mo Donegal in June to go with Breeders’ Cup victories in the Juvenile, Filly & Mare Sprint and Sprint. He also earned nine other Grade 1 wins in New York, including Life Is Good in the Woodward and Whitney and Nest in the Alabama and Coaching Club Oaks. He won riding titles at Belmont’s spring-summer meet and Saratoga’s summer meet.

Ortiz Jr. leads North American riders with 304 overall victories this year. His purse earnings totaled over $35.8 million going into Saturday’s races, which already surpassed his single-season record of $34.1 million in 2019.