The necropsy results for Medina Spirit, who died in December after a timed workout at Santa Anita Park, were inconclusive, but they indicated that the colt most likely died of a heart attack. Hair, blood and urine samples showed no evidence of doping, California racing officials said on Friday.
The disqualification, along with recent guilty pleas and convictions of prominent trainers and veterinarians for doping horses, lends urgency to the implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act.
Set to take effect July 1, 2022, it calls for a board overseen by the Federal Trade Commission to write rules and penalties to be enforced by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which regulates Olympic and other elite athletes in the United States. The agency revealed the cyclist Lance Armstrong’s cheating and issued him a lifetime suspension in 2012.
USADA’s role is uncertain, however, because the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which is charged with creating a framework and budget for enforcement, could not reach an agreement with the agency. The authority is exploring other options for an enforcement entity, but it has indicated that it may try to reopen negotiations with USADA.
With Medina Spirit’s apparent victory at Churchill Downs last year, Baffert won his seventh Kentucky Derby, surpassing a record set by Ben Jones, who last won in 1952.
Instead, however, Baffert and Medina Spirit join Maximum Security and Dancer’s Image as the only horses to have their Derby victories overturned.
In 2019, Maximum Security was first across the finish line, only to be disqualified for almost knocking over a rival horse in the far turn and slowing the momentum of others. The next year, Maximum Security’s trainer, Jason Servis, was among 27 people charged by federal prosecutors in a wide-ranging scheme to secretly dope horses and cheat the betting public. He is awaiting trial.