Attorney argues for Baffert, Medina Spirit to KHRC stewards

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — An attorney for Bob Baffert believes the Hall of Famer trainer and embattled Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit “will be fully exonerated” after stating to Kentucky racing stewards that the colt’s failed drug test for a steroid resulted from a prescribed topical salve rather than an injection.

Medina Spirit’s derby win is in jeopardy following the failed postrace drug test for betamethasone last May. Churchill Downs has suspended Baffert for two years following the latest in a recent series of failed tests by his horses. Representatives for Baffert and the horse met Monday with Kentucky Horse Racing Association stewards and contended there was no violation because state rules allow the use of topical salves. Betamethasone is legal in Kentucky but prohibited on race day.

Attorney Clark Brewster said in a statement Monday night that rules in Kentucky and other jurisdictions restrict only betamethasone acetate or sodium phosphate, which are injected into a horse’s intra-articular joint. Brewster added, “The false narrative regarding this case was sprung early and spread widely by uninformed or malevolent accusers and by careless reporting.”

The hearing was closed to the public and media, and a decision could come this week. A message left with a KHRC spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

Medina Spirit died Dec. 6 after a workout at Santa Anita racetrack in California. Results released last week from a necropsy on the horse revealed no definitive cause of death.

369 horses nominated to compete in Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A total of 369 3-year-olds were made eligible to compete in this year’s Triple Crown series during the early nomination period.

Each of the horses was nominated through a $600 payment to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes. The Triple Crown opens May 6 with the Derby.

The number of nominated horses increased by 57 from last year’s total of 312. They include a record 37 horses based in Japan.

Among the notable horses is Forte, last year’s 2-year-old champion trained by Todd Pletcher.

Also among the predominantly male horses nominated was a filly named Hoosier Philly.

Brad Cox led all trainers with 38 horses nominated to the series. Pletcher was second with 36 horses, followed by Steve Asmussen and Ken McPeek with 13 each. Chad Brown and Hideyuki Mori had 12 each.

Others nominated include Arabian Knight, Cave Rock and Newgate, all trained by Bob Baffert. He is currently banned by Churchill Downs Inc. through this year’s Derby, although Baffert is challenging his two-year punishment in federal court.

For the Derby, horses under the care of any suspended trainer may be transferred to another trainer and become eligible to earn Derby qualifying points as long as the transfer is done by Feb. 28.

Last year, Baffert transferred two horses to another trainer and both ran in the Derby, although neither was highly placed.

Horses that were not nominated to the Triple Crown series by the early deadline of Jan. 28 can make a late payment of $6,000 through March 27 to become eligible.

Newgate wins Robert B. Lewis Stakes; Baffert runs 1-2-3-4

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Newgate won the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with Bob Baffert as the trainer of all four horses in the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Newgate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11 and paid $4 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite. There was no show wagering because of the field size.

Hard to Figure returned $5.20 at 12-1 odds. Worcester was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Arabian Lion was fourth.

“So much improvement in all these horses,” Baffert said. “I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen, but I can relax now.”

The Lewis was a Kentucky Derby prep race, but no points were awarded because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The Hall of Fame trainer was in Louisville to testify in federal court as he seeks a temporary injunction to end the suspension, which runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet. It was meted out following a failed drug test by Medina Spirit after the colt finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Newgate earned his first graded stakes victory. The colt was second, beaten by a neck in the Sham Stakes last month in his previous start.

“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said.

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Newgate’s career earnings to $241,975, with two wins in six starts.