Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit is set to race in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Saturday evening, days after failing a post-Derby drug test.
The 146th running of the Preakness will once again be the second event in the Triple Crown of horse racing, a return to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic upended last year’s schedule. A limited crowd of 10,000 will be allowed to attend, too, with masks required unless eating or drinking.
The race will be broadcast on NBC, with the start scheduled for around 6:50 p.m. ET.
“We are thrilled to be able to welcome fans back to Pimlico Race Course for Preakness 146,” said Belinda Stronach, the chairman, CEO and president of 1/ST, which owns Pimlico.
“While fan attendance will be limited due to COVID-19 protocols, the excitement of the Preakness is not limited. The 1/ST team has worked tirelessly and in cooperation with Baltimore City and the State of Maryland to thoughtfully and safely prepare for an exciting and memorable day of world-class Thoroughbred horse racing and entertainment.”
The return of the fans won’t be able to pry the focus from Medina Spirit and controversial trainer Bob Baffert, who is not expected to attend the race.
Preakness race organizers said Baffert consented to blood tests for Medina Spirit and monitoring by the Maryland Racing Commission in order to run Saturday in the 10-horse field. The results of the blood samples from the horse were deemed clear, officials said Friday.
Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago but then tested positive for elevated levels of betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid, throwing the victory into question.
Baffert, a Hall of Fame horse trainer, denied he had done anything wrong, calling the test results an “injustice to the horse” and bizarrely telling Fox News that the horse was a victim of “cancel culture.”
But in a statement Tuesday, Baffert acknowledged the horse was treated before the Derby with an ointment containing betamethasone.
“Following the Santa Anita Derby, Medina Spirit developed dermatitis on his hind end. I had him checked out by my veterinarian who recommended the use of an anti-fungal ointment called Otomax. The veterinary recommendation was to apply this ointment daily to give the horse relief, help heal the dermatitis and prevent it from spreading,” part of Baffert’s statement reads.
“While we do not know definitively that this was the source of the alleged 21 picograms found in Medina Spirit’s post-race blood sample, and our investigation is continuing, I have been told by equine pharmacology experts that this could explain the test results. As such, I wanted to be forthright about this fact as soon as I learned of this information,” the statement adds.
Medina Spirit has not been disqualified as the winner of the Derby. A split sample from Medina Spirit is being tested, and if the original results are confirmed, then Baffert would have a chance to appeal. If an appeal is unsuccessful, Medina Spirit would be stripped of the Kentucky Derby crown as well as the prize money.
The test results will not be available for at least four to eight weeks.
Last year’s Preakness was delayed because of the pandemic and took place in October without spectators. The winner was Swiss Skydiver, a 3-year-old filly ridden by jockey Robby Albarado and owned by Peter Callahan under trainer Kenneth McPeek.
The third race of the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes, scheduled for June 5.