Baffert’s Attorney Calls for Changes in Horse Racing Drug Policies After Gamine Test

Posted on: October 24, 2020, 11:58h. 

Last updated on: October 25, 2020, 11:27h.

An attorney for legendary thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert issued a statement Friday claiming a New York Times report regarding a failed drug test for Gamine after the Kentucky Oaks was “inaccurate and needs to be cleared up.”

Trainer Bob Baffert, shown here in a 2018 photo from Belmont Park in New York, faces allegations of a failed drug test for one of his horses, although his attorney said proper protocols were followed. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Craig Robertson, a Lexington, Ky. lawyer, said the filly was treated with a legal anti-inflammatory drug more than two weeks before the Sept. 4 race at Churchill Downs. Gamine, the heavy favorite in the race, finished third.

On Thursday, Kentucky regulatory officials reported a failed drug test was recorded, but would not reveal those involved until a subsequent investigation took place. The Times reported, citing anonymous sources, that it was Baffert’s filly that failed the screen.

According to Robertson, the test revealed Gamine’s system has 27 picograms of betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory steroid. The testing threshold is 10 picograms.

Robertson said the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission recommends the drug not be administered within two weeks of the race.

“In this instance, as an additional layer of protection, Gamine’s veterinarian last treated her with betamethasone 18 days before the Oaks,” the statement read.

Baffert Attorney: Racing Must Address Drug Testing

Baffert’s attorney goes on to say in the statement that Gamine’s test results cast light on two “very troubling” issues that need addressing.

First, the thresholds for many lawful medications such as betamethasone are way too low,” Robertson said. “A picogram is a trillionth of a gram.  27 picograms is a minuscule amount that would not affect a thousand-pound animal.  The regulations governing racing must be ones that are related to pharmacology in a horse as opposed to how sensitive labs can test. Second, trainers and veterinarians must be able to rely on guidelines given them by racing officials. If they are told by regulators that a medication will clear a horses system in 14 days, they must be able to rely on that information.”

The KHRC’s withdrawal guidelines, updated in April, state the recommendations are made based on the latest scientific knowledge, noting that may change over time. Licensees accused of violating drug rules can show “evidence of full compliance” to the KHRC recommendations, and the commission or racing stewards may consider that when investigating violations or determining sanctions.

Robertson’s call for changes in equine drug policy could, theoretically, be addressed if Congress passes the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. That would create a national governing body over the sport – rather than rely on the 38 state regulatory bodies to come up with their own policies – and create a drug testing program overseen by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

Baffert himself has spoken out in support of the bill, which has already cleared the US House and awaits action in the Senate.

Gamine, Other Baffert Horses Previously Failed Drug Tests

Gamine’s failed Kentucky Oaks drug test is the latest for the Hall of Fame trainer who guided two horses to Triple Crowns in the last five years. Earlier this year, Gamine and Charlatan tested positive for lidocaine, causing them to be disqualified from victories in races at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Baffert also received a 15-day suspension for the issue, which he claimed happened as the result of a stablehand who wore a pain-reliving patch on his back.

In addition, a court case could decide whether Justify, one of Baffert’s Triple Crown winners, will be disqualified from his 2018 Santa Anita Debry victory after it was discovered he tested positive for a banned substance. In that case, Baffert argued that a local weed that contained the drug contaminated horse feed, causing several horses to test positive.

Animal welfare organization PETA has called on Kentucky officials to ban Baffert from racing in the state if he’s found guilty. However, current guidelines indicate the trainer faces a far less severe penalty.

Baffert potentially faces a suspension of up to 30 days if the KHRC rules against him. Gamine would also be stripped of her third place finish in the Oaks, relieving her owners of $120,000 in purse money.