NINE months after Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test after the 2021 Kentucky Derby, the Bob Baffert-trained colt was disqualified by Kentucky stewards on Monday from the victory in the Derby at Churchill Downs.

A post-race test (and split sample) had indicated the presence of the corticosteroid betamethasone, prohibited at any level on race day in the state.

Medina Spirit’s trainer Bob Baffert was suspended for 90 days and fined $7,500. The suspension, pending an appeal, goes from March 8th through to June 5th, which will not allow him to have any runners in the 2022 Triple Crown races.

Medina Spirit will be placed last in the field of 19 runners and Juddmonte Farms’ Mandaloun promoted to the winner. All other runners are moved up one spot. The changes give Juddmonte, trainer Brad Cox, and jockey Florent Geroux their first Kentucky Derby win.

Baffert’s attorney Craig Robertson said an “immediate appeal” will be filed and the trainer has always maintained the positive test was due to ointment being used to treat a rash on the colt’s quarters.

The colt sadly collapsed and died at Santa Anita after a piece of work in December. The sudden death, believed to be a heart attack, is being investigated by California officials.

Baffert has continued to produce his usual group of potential Derby contenders this season, including Newgrange and Pinehurst, the latter runs in Saudi Arabia today.

He also trains the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Corniche.

Epicenter is centre stage

FAIR Grounds hosted the two main graded races of the weekend with 50 points on the Kentucky Derby trail being picked up by the Steve Asmussen-trained Epicenter, who impressed with a two-and-three-quarter-length win in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes.

In the familiar Winchell Thoroughbreds colours, Epicenter grabbed the early lead and was never headed, posting an easy victory over the favourite and previously unbeaten Smile Happy.

The speedy son of Not This Time now has 64 overall and assures him of a spot in the field for the May 7th Kentucky Derby.

“He ran a big race today. He was enjoying what he was doing,” jockey Rosario said about the colt who heads next to the New Orleans track’s March 26th Grade 2 Louisiana Derby.

Kenny McPeek was also happy with his second-placed Smile Happy.

“I was pleased with the race. I said if he’s third or better it would be a nice next step. For a mile-and-an-eighth race in the third start of his career and after a layoff, it was an excellent run.”

The Kentucky Oaks trial, the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes went to long-shot Turnerloose trained by Brad Cox.

The Nyquist filly was trying dirt for the first time but was a stakes winner on the turf last year.

Duggan’ graded success

THERE was a graded race success earlier this month for Irishman David Duggan when the eight-year-old gelding Drafted won the Grade 3 Toboggan Stakes at Aqueduct.

Drafted races for the Dublin Fjord Stables, Racepoint Stables, Kevin Hilbert and Thomas O’Keefe, and was once trained by Eoin Harty for Godolphin but was later bought by Brian Gleeson for $10,000 at a Godolphin horses-in-training sale for a syndicate and won five races in Dubai before moving back to the USA in 2020.

David is from Birdhill, Co Tipperary and Lara is daughter of Susan and the late Willie Robinson on the Curragh.