Monday morning in Franklin County Circuit Court saw attorneys for embattled trainer Bob Baffert and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission back in front of Judge Thomas Wingate, in response to the KHRC’s July 20 request that the judge compel Baffert’s attorneys to reveal the results of additional testing on Medina Spirit’s post-race urine sample.
The case is based on the finding of betamethasone in a post-race sample of Medina Spirit, collected immediately after the colt crossed the wire first in the Kentucky Derby.
“My understanding is that an affirmative defense is being mounted by the plaintiffs, to the extent that there may be some evidence as to how this substance (betamethasone) was introduced to the horse,” said Jennifer Wolsing, general counsel for the KHRC. “If this turns out to be a viable affirmative defense, and of course right now the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission takes no position one way or another on that issue, that if it is, then the racing commission may want to do additional testing.
“Regrettably, we’re still waiting on the testing results. We can’t have a stewards hearing until those testing results have come back, because that appears to form the basis of the defense the plaintiffs want to mount. We would really like those results so that we can press forward with a stewards hearing and find out more about this case.”
Counsel for Medina Spirit’s trainer Bob Baffert and owner Zedan Stables, Craig Robertson, filed a civil suit against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on June 7 demanding their right to test the split urine sample, which sat undisturbed in the commission’s freezer. Remnants of the original biologic samples were initially sent to be tested for those ingredients, but they were reportedly damaged before arrival at the plaintiffs’ choice of labs, the New York Equine Drug Testing and Research Laboratory.
Judge Wingate ordered June 16 that the remaining urine sample be flown to the New York lab, that two KHRC representatives travel with the sample, and that plaintiffs fund the flight. Upon arrival, the KHRC was to retain 5 milliliters of the sample, while the remainder was to be tested for clotrimazole, gentamicin, and betamethasone valerate.
On July 14, the sample was flown to New York accompanied by Dr. Clara Fenger and Tom Huckeby, representing Baffert and Medina Spirit’s owner, Amr Zedan, as well as by KHRC executive director Marc Guilfoil and equine medical director Dr. Bruce Howard.
A July 19 filing by the KHRC alleges that the urine sample was split into four milliliter and 19 milliliter segments, with the New York lab to retain the larger segment for testing. Program director Dr. George Maylin attempted to then retain the remnants of the original urine sample, which was purportedly contaminated during shipment. Maylin claimed he was unaware that the court order required those remnants be turned over to the KHRC.
When the remnants of the original sample were turned over to KHRC representatives, the filing alleges that the urine tube contained only one to two milliliters of “bloody fluid,” a broken serum separator tube, and another tube with serum that had been saved — all presented at room temperature instead of frozen. Guilfoil and Howard report that Maylin said most of the sample had been used up in testing, but would not indicate what testing was performed.
On Monday, after initial confusion over which urine sample the KHRC’s motion was referring to, Wolsing represented that the commission was concerned about why the original sample had been tested when it had clearly been contaminated.
“As far as what we’re asking for, we did want transparency in these test results, and we’d also like to know why the court order was violated, despite Dr. Maylin’s statement to the contrary,” Wolsing said.
“Mr. Robertson says that they (KHRC representatives) took the primary sample back (to Kentucky) with them,” said Judge Wingate.
“We took back what hadn’t been tested up by the New York laboratory,” Wolsing clarified. “That was a shock to us. I mean, if this primary sample is so compromised, then what in the world are they testing for?”
Robertson took over the microphone to explain.
“The primary (sample) arrived in New York in a compromised condition,” Robertson said. “New York was under instruction to test that sample, and it arrives in a compromised condition. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission doesn’t advise us that it arrives in a compromised condition until five days later. We immediately then begin the process of, ‘Well, let’s get the pristine split sample to New York for testing.’ That took three weeks because they fought us on that. It took three weeks before there was an order entered that said, ‘Test the pristine split sample.’
“During that three weeks, of course the New York laboratory has the primary sample under instructions to test it. Now I don’t know what testing they did or didn’t do, because I have intentionally not had any communication with them about that. But it certainly is plausible that during those three weeks, they performed some sort of testing on the compromised sample, because they were under instructions to do it, and they had no idea that they would subsequently get an additional sample. Regardless of whatever they’ve done on the primary sample, and the subsequent split sample, all of those results need to be disclosed to both parties at the same time.”
Following that explanation, Judge Wingate quipped: “The main thing is we need to get those results so I can remand this to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, and you all can fight like cats and dogs down there over whether he’s the Derby horse, and what needs to happen to Mr. Baffert.”
Judge Wingate did not issue an official order, but said he would do so if the lab was unwilling to provide the test results or a date on which they would be delivered to both parties.
“You’re in the driver’s seat (referring to KHRC counsel), because you’ve already got a report that says the steroid was in the horse, and you all just need to go and do your stewards hearings is what I believe, and go from there and see what kind of penalties that the Horse Racing Commission levies on this horse and trainer,” Judge Wingate said.
And so we wait.
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