The horse that crossed the finish line first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby has been stripped of its win and its famed trainer has been suspended after an investigation into a failed drug test, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission commission ruled Monday, concluding one of the most controversial chapters in horse racing history months after the winning horse, Medina Spirit, died.
The ruling Monday formally disqualifies Medina Spirit and requires all prize money be forfeited.
Bob Baffert, the horse’s trainer, faces a $7,500 fine and a 90-day suspension from racing at courses overseen by the Kentucky Horse Racing Association.
Kentucky Derby host Churchill Downs said in a statement after the ruling Monday that 2021 second-place finisher Mandaloun has been declared the winner of last year’s race.
Medina Spirit died following a workout at the Santa Anita racetrack in California on December 6; results of a necropsy released this month found no clear cause of death.
Baffert’s attorney, Clark Brewster, slammed the ruling in statement “as an egregious departure from both the facts and the law” and said Baffert will appeal.
$1.86 million. That’s how much in prize money Medina Spirit’s team collected from the Derby win. The horse’s premature death meant his owners also lost out on earnings from future breeding.
Test results released a day after the Derby last year found Medina Spirit had twice the legal amount of the steroid betamethasone in his system. The drug is not allowed on race days in Kentucky, and Baffert has claimed the horse received it through an ointment—not an injection. But Baffert, a 69-year-old trainer who developed seven Kentucky Derby-winning horses and two Triple Crown winners, found little support in the racing community. He’s become somewhat infamous in recent years for failed drug tests among his horses, leading to multiple suspensions. Baffert was handed a two-year ban from Churchill Downs in June after a second test on Medina Spirit came back positive.
The decision to hand Mandaloun the win means its trainer, Brad Cox, technically becomes the first Louisville, Kentucky, native to train a Derby-winning horse, according to WLKY-TV.
Only two horses have been disqualified as Kentucky Derby winners since the race was first run in 1875, and both invalidations came within the past three years. In 2019, a horse named Maximum Security was disqualified after the race after a video review showed him interfering with other horses’ progress.