Bob Baffert out of Derby

Trainer banned from Kentucky Derby for two years after positive test confirmed

Trainer Bob Baffert has been banned from the Kentucky Derby for two years, following confirmation of the positive drugs test against this year's race winner Medina Spirit.

A statement from Churchill Downs Inc, which operates the Kentucky Derby, said no horse trained by Baffert would be allowed to race at the track until the end of the Spring Meet in 2023.

It means Baffert, one of the most successful trainers in US racing history, will not be allowed to enter the Kentucky Derby until 2024 at the earliest.

Medina Spirit was allowed to compete in last month's Preakness, the second leg of US racing's Triple Crown, despite the positive test.

But Baffert has been barred from entering runners at the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown, by the New York Racing Association. The race is on Sunday morning (Singapore time).

Baffert's suspension comes after Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned steroid.

A second drug test on the horse has confirmed the presence of the steroid, a statement said on Wednesday, potentially paving the way for the horse to be stripped of his victory at Churchill Downs.

Clark Brewster, a lawyer for Medina Spirit's owner, Amr Zedan, confirmed in a statement that analysis of a split sample taken from the horse had found traces of betamethasone.

Baffert initially vehemently denied administering the drug to the horse. But he later admitted it was contained in an ointment used to treat a skin complaint up until the eve of the Derby.

It is the latest controversy to embroil Baffert, whose horses have failed at least 29 drug tests during his career.

Brewster said in a statement that further analysis of Medina Spirit's sample was ongoing, and would bolster Baffert's claim that the betamethasone entered the horse's system through the topical ointment Otomax, and not an injection.

"In response to the inquiries, this will acknowledge that the Medina Spirit split sample confirmed the finding of betamethasone at 25 picograms," Brewster's statement said.

"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."

If Medina Spirit's Derby victory is invalidated, runner-up Mandaloun stands to be named the Kentucky Derby winner. - AFP