Another Failed Drug Test Is Linked to a Bob Baffert Horse
The filly Gamine, who tested positive for a banned substance in May, did so again in September after finishing third in the prestigious Kentucky Oaks, according to two people familiar with the results of the drug test who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
Gamine is trained by Bob Baffert, a Hall of Famer who is one of the most decorated people in horse racing, but also one who has caught the attention of regulators over the years.
This was Baffert’s 28th drug violation, and his third in six months, according to public records compiled by the Association of Racetrack Commissioners International and the Thoroughbred Regulatory Rulings database maintained by the Jockey Club.
In a tweet sent Thursday, the Kentucky Public Protection Agency acknowledged that a sample had come back positive for a “Class C” violation from the horses tested on the Sept. 4 race card, which was highlighted by the Oaks, a race for 3-year-old fillies that is considered second in prestige in the state to the Kentucky Derby.
“The KHRC is following its regulatory process in conducting a follow-up investigation of this matter,” the tweet read, referring to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. “Accordingly, the names involved will be released at the completion.”
Neither Baffert nor his lawyer, W. Craig Robertson, returned phone calls, texts or emails requesting comment.
The day after the Oaks, Baffert won his sixth Derby, with the colt Authentic, and tied Ben Jones for the most victories in the race’s history.
The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held Nov. 6 and 7 at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky. Gamine is considered one of the favorites to win the $1 million Filly & Mare Sprint race. Last June, Gamine won the Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park in New York by nearly 19 lengths in a stakes-record time of 1 minute and 32.55 seconds. The performance inspired talk that she might take on males in the Kentucky Derby, but she instead ended up in the Oaks.
In the $6 million Classic, the Baffert trainees Authentic and Maximum Security are among the favorites.
It is unclear if the Kentucky horse racing commission’s investigation will be concluded before those races. If the positive test is upheld, the owners of Gamine will have to forfeit the $120,000 she earned for finishing third in the Oaks. Baffert could face anywhere from zero to 365 days’ suspension, depending on how the commission views his history or whether it determines that there were mitigating circumstances.
It has been a tumultuous year for Baffert.
In May, Gamine and a colt named Charlatan, who won a division of the Arkansas Derby, tested positive for lidocaine, a local numbing agent. Arkansas regulators suspended Baffert for 15 days, and the horses’ owners were ordered to forfeit their prize money — $300,000 in the case of Charlatan. The owner of the Gamine was ordered to forfeit a $36,000 first-place check won in an allowance race earlier that day, May 2. The suspension was to run from Aug. 1 to 15.
Last year, The New York Times reported that Justify — also trained by Baffert — had failed a drug test after winning the 2018 Santa Anita Derby, nearly a month before the Kentucky Derby. The rule at the time required that Justify be disqualified, forfeiting both his prize money and his entry into the Kentucky Derby.
California racing officials investigated the failed test for four months, allowing Justify to keep competing long enough to win not only the Derby, but also the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes to become the 13th Triple Crown winner.
In August 2018, after Justify’s breeding rights had been sold for $60 million, the California Horse Racing Board — whose chairman at the time, Chuck Winner, had previously employed Baffert to train his horses — disposed of the inquiry altogether during a rare closed-door session.
The board ruled that Justify’s positive test for the banned drug scopolamine had been the result of “environmental contamination,” not intentional doping.
Next week California regulators will conduct a hearing to decide whether to erase Justify’s Santa Anita Derby win and force his owners to forfeit the $600,000 first-place check. The hearing is part of settlement of a lawsuit brought against the California Horse Racing Board by the owner of the second-place finisher, Bolt d’Oro.
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