For the second time in three years, horse racing’s most prestigious event has stepped in a pile. This isn’t like 2019, when Maximum Security was disqualified for interference. This year’s controversy is a horse of a different color.
Q: So what’s going on with the Kentucky Derby winner?
A: In a nutshell, Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that isn’t illegal but needed to be out of his system before the race. Trainer Bob Baffert insists he did not even give the drug, betamethasone, to Medina Spirit and that something else could be (if you’ll pardon another pun) afoot.
Q: What is betamethasone?
A: That’s the thing. It’s a pain reliever, not a performance enhancer. A second blood sample will be tested by an independent lab, so Medina Spirit’s placing in the Kentucky Derby won’t be decided anytime soon.
Q: I had Mandaloun, the horse that ran second to Medina Spirit, at 27-1. Where do I collect?
A: Unfortunately, you’re out of luck again. Even if Medina Spirit is disqualified, all pari-mutuel wagers were settled once the race became official.
Q: Why’s that?
A: The tracks would get killed otherwise. Think the folks who had Medina Spirit are showing up to return their winnings? They’re not in the business of paying twice.
Q: Is that in the rules?
A: Sure is. According to chapter 193, section 8 of the Pennsylvania pari-mutuel code, “Any ruling of the Judges or Stewards or the Commission with regard to the award of purse money made after the sign ‘official’ has been purposely displayed shall have no bearing on the pari-mutuel payoff.” Every state has the same regulation/protection.
Q: How about prop bets, like head-to-head wagers, from other sportsbooks?
A: That could be a different story but rather unlikely. Remember, Medina Spirit hasn’t been disqualified and likely won’t for several months. Baffert, Medina Spirit’s trainer, was adamant on Sunday that he was willing to die on this hill.
Q: My horse came in last, but I’m still curious. What were the payouts?
A: Medina Spirit paid a healthy $26.20 to win, $12.00 to place, and $7.60 to show. Mandaloun was worth $23.00 to place, and $13.40 to show. And the third horse, Hot Rod Charlie, paid $5.20 to show. The $2 exacta was worth a fabulous $503.60, and a $2 trifecta paid (gulp) $3,381.60. The $2 superfecta (top four horses in order) paid nearly $19,000.
Q: What happens next?
A: The Preakness Stakes is Saturday, and Baffert intends to run Medina Spirit, which has put Maryland Jockey Club officials in a difficult position. If they honor the suspension that Churchill Downs has placed on Baffert, they will deny themselves the chance to host the (albeit disputed) Kentucky Derby winner. And what happens if that split blood sample exonerates Medina Spirit? If they let Baffert run the colt, they are disregarding the failed drug test from the Derby. The draw for the Preakness was pushed back until Tuesday give officials time to “review relevant facts and information.” Baffert, knowing he’d be a tremendous distraction, will not attend the race.