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Experts discuss latest Kentucky Derby controversy; what it could mean for future of horse racing

Experts discuss the latest controversy surrounding the Kentucky Derby.
Experts discuss the latest controversy surrounding the Kentucky Derby.(Source: WKYT)
Updated: May. 9, 2021 at 9:54 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - An event full of prestige, long-standing history and a good bit of controversy.

“If the lab is able to detect the substance, it is an automatic violation,” said Executive Director of Racing Medication and Testing Consortium Dr. Mary Scollay.

Another Kentucky Derby winner making headlines after Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test, according to trainer Bob Baffert. An initial test finding the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone in his system.

“It’s used in treating injuries and allowing a horse comfort while it recovers. But if you use the medication to treat the horse, then continue pressing it with training and racing, you put it at an increased risk of injury,” said Dr. Scollay.

While Baffert said he never treated Medina Spirit with the drug, Dr. Mary Scollay said the trainer has a right to have a second sample tested again. If the second sample is positive, a serious investigation into how the horse was exposed begins.

“The vast majority of our medication violations are errors, mistakes, and not results of nefarious decisions,” Dr. Scollay said.

Executive Director of Animal Wellness Action, Marty Irby is concerned following the alleged incident.

”The animal entertainment industry has some serious issues. Horse racing is no exception,” said Irby.

Irby was a leader in the fight for the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, a uniform, national standard for drug testing in the racing world. As well as creating one, overseeing entity. The legislation expected to go into effect 2022.

“As long as the current status quo is maintained, more horses are going to continue to be drugged and more horses are going to continue to die at racetracks all across the country,” Irby said.

Hopeful more serious sanctions for those found guilty could save horses’ lives.

“Until horse racing really implements meaningful penalties, this is going to keep happening over and over again.”

For now, we wait on the results of the second sample, to see if Medina Spirit’s win on the track, stays in the record books.

Doctor Scollay said if the second sample is positive, the Kentucky Racing Commission would begin their investigation, expecting cooperation from Baffert.

The Kentucky Racing Commission released this statement:

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) officials are investigating the (Betamethasone) medication test finding related to horse “Medina Spirit” and trainer Bob Baffert. The test was conducted Derby Day, May 1. Test results were obtained May 7.

During the investigation, both the trainer and owner of the horse will be afforded due process, and opportunity to appeal. Therefore, the KHRC will not provide further comment at this time.

She said there would be mandatory disqualification and then penalties that would range from suspension, fines or both.

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