Letter To The Editor: The Medina Spirit/Otomax Theory Really Isn't That Complicated; It Also Doesn't Nullify DQ - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Letter To The Editor: The Medina Spirit/Otomax Theory Really Isn’t That Complicated; It Also Doesn’t Nullify DQ

The recent release of the information that Medina Spirit was negative for betamethasone on a pre-Derby test, while demonstrably positive on a post-Derby test, is being waved about as a stunning mystery. Has no one on either side ever been around a real live horse before?

This new revelation is not likely evidence of a nefarious plot to nail Bob Baffert. The new revelation is not likely evidence  of dirty deeds and an effort to cheat by anyone in the Baffert barn.

How could he be treated the same way with Otomax every day, and only the post-race test be positive??? All that had to happen was for Medina Spirit to have acted like a normal horse, at just the wrong moment, just after an application of Otomax to his rash.

Discard all the wild theories and just go with the one explanation that fits ALL of the facts we know. Shortly after the Otomax was applied, Medina Spirit reached around and scratched his itchy backside with his teeth. He therefore got a mouthful of Otomax at a point close to the race. Possibly the day before the Derby, maybe the day of (though it is against the rules to use any topical containing a steroid on race day). We can't tell. It probably does not happen very often, hence why is is commonly, and legitimately prescribed by vets. (As was done in this case.) Should Bob Baffert have known that Otomax contained betamethasone? Maybe, but he had probably been using it without issue for years. Even his vets did not realize it could give a positive test.

This is an entirely likely scenario and explains everything:
1) How Medina Spirit could test positive in a post race sample, after the Kentucky Derby.
2) How Medina Spirit could test negative while on the same regime, before the Kentucky Derby.
3) Why Bob Baffert was so certain that Medina Spirit had not had any joints injected with betamethasone, resulting in his disastrously vociferous public denials of betamethasone use.
4) Why the special Baffert ordered lab tests (even if perhaps not sufficiently validated) showed betamethasone valerate and no betamethasone acetate or sodium phosphate.

Horses are horses, and do not read rule books. There are obvious ways after the fact, to prevent a positive test from occurring after use of Otomax. But no one had to do anything nefarious or odd, to simply explain what most likely occurred to cause all of these problems.

The blind “haters” do not have evidence of blatant cheating, the blind “defenders” do not have evidence of anyone out to get Bob Baffert. Bob Baffert in complete innocence had something fall through the cracks, and the results have been obvious.


What should be done? That is tougher. The KHRC list of banned substances just lists betamethasone in the substances not allowed to be found in a post-race sample. There is no distinction made regarding the form of betamethasone. Testing is not widely available to distinguish between chemical forms. The KHRC used the only available test for betamethasone. Yet their only detailed information on use of betamethasone does specifically distinguish the forms of concern as betamethasone acetate and betamethasone sodium phosphate — forms not apparent in Medina Spirit's samples. These are withdrawal *recommendations* directed specifically at preventing injection of joints in the two weeks prior to racing. This restriction is critically important to reduce catastrophic breakdowns. Systemic use of betamethasone gets a toss comment, that systemic use of betamethasone might result in longer withdrawal times. The public also needs to understand that these recommendations are only that, and DO NOT protect a trainer who follows those recommendations and still gets a positive test.

If one goes by the rules, as written, are the rules no matter what, then the disqualification is inevitable. The nature and amount of any suspension or fines, is not, and the board has discretion.

If one goes by the primary intent of the rules – to prevent joint injections close to a race – it is pretty clear that did not happen.


Sarah McCarthy, DVM


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