All horses, including Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, cleared to run Preakness

Medina Spirit has passed his three drug tests this week and will be running Saturday in the Preakness Stakes. Word came Friday afternoon that the Kentucky Derby winner, along with three other Bob Baffert horses are eligible to run.

As a condition of running, Baffert agreed to have all four of his horses tested before running at Pimlico Race Course this weekend after betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory, was discovered in Medina Spirit’s system. Stablemates Concert Tour, is the second-favorite in the Preakness, and Beautiful Gift is scheduled to run in Friday’s featured Black Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. A fourth horse, Hozier, was tested only two times and will run in the Sir Barton Stakes on Saturday.

Maryland, as with Kentucky, California and most states, has a zero-tolerance policy for the drug on race day. It is a legal medication, usually used to treat joint inflammation and subsequent pain, but a horse has to be off it for at least 14 days before it can race. It is not considered a performance enhancer, according to two nationally known equine veterinarians contacted by The Times.

Medina Spirit was treated with an ointment that contained betamethasone for dermatitis on his hind quarter from shortly after the Santa Anita Derby to the day before the Kentucky Derby, or for about a month.

The banning of use of the medication prior to racing is so veterinarians can better detect any soundness problems with a horse. The drug decreases the inflammation, meaning that hot areas cannot be as easily detected in pre-race veterinary examinations.

If Medina Spirit is disqualified by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, it likely will be years before it works its way through all the appeals processes and courts. It took four years for Forward Pass to be declared the winner of the Kentucky Derby after the disqualification of Dancer’s Image in 1968. To date, that has been the only drug disqualification in the Kentucky Derby‘s 167-year history.

If Medina Spirit were to have won the Preakness and then the Belmont Stakes three weeks after that, the crowning of the 15th Triple Crown champion would have been in chaos. Now that’s not an issue.

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