Derby Drama

Lizzy Crawford


For those who may not know, the Kentucky Derby is the world’s top horse race which always takes place on the first Saturday of May. Fans attend the famous Churchill Downs to bet on horses whilst wearing ginormous, yet elegant hats and over-the-top suits 

This year, the 147th Kentucky Derby, took place on May 1. Many had their eye on the favorite horse named Essential Quality. This horse is owned by the Vice President of the United Arab Emirates. The owner, Sheikh Mohammed, faced backlash as claims arose stating he was holding his daughter hostage for speaking out against his policies. On a lighter note, my top picks included Hot Rod Charlie, Known Agenda, and Soup and Sandwich (because of the fantastic name). I was mostly betting on Hot Rod Charlie for the win because he was ranked number 2 and his owners were not your typical racehorse owner. Hod Rod is owned by a group of college friends who decided to all pitch in on a racing horse and have one of the guys’ uncle train the horse. This made Hot Rod Charlie a long shot for the win, but if he did win it would be an awesome upset.

The winner of this prestigious race was Medina Spirit. This was a relatively surprising win as Medina Spirit was seeded to get 8th place prior to the race. At the same time, Medina Spirit’s win went down in the record books as his trainer, Bob Baffert, got his seventh Kentucky Derby victory. NPR relates how Baffert expressed his own astonishment when being questioned after the race, “I cannot believe he won this race. That little horse has heart.” 

The drama around Essential Quality’s ownership wasn’t the only backlash that outburst in this year’s race. Rumors sparked after Medina Spirit tested positive for steroids following the Derby. This post race drug test showed a positive trace of the steroid betamethasone in Medina Spirit’s bloodline. Baffert claims that the 21 picograms would have been present because Medina was treated with dermatitis ointment everyday before the race. ESPN notes, “In August a new standard was passed that any detectable amount of betamethasone in race testing is a violation. Betamethasone is legal under Kentucky racing rules, though it must be cleared 14 days before a horse races.” It is evident that Baffert made no effort to properly clear Medina Spirit for these ointments in proper ways before the race. 

If the horse tests positive again after an additional round of testing, Medina Spirit will be disqualified from the race and Mandaloun will be rewarded the win. If this were to happen, Medina Spirit will be the third race in Kentucky Derby history to be disqualified after being initially given a victory. 

In response to these statements, Baffert shared, “Medina Spirit is a deserved champion and I will continue to fight for him.” This wouldn’t be the first time Baffert is being accused of steroid uses, as it is his fifth violation in just over a year.

As of right now, Medina Spirit is cleared to race in the Preakness race on Sunday as long as the horse does proper blood testing and monitoring beforehand. In order to free the horse of any distractions or further allegations, Baffert has stated he will not be attending this race. Many will have their eyes on Medina Spirit in the next few weeks to see what his, and Baffert’s, fate will be.