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Bob Baffert banned in New York following Medina Spirit’s failed drugs test

Bob Baffert has been handed a temporary suspension by the New York Racing Association, meaning the trainer may well miss out on next month’s Belmont Stakes, the final leg of US horse racing’s Triple Crown.

The suspension comes after one of Baffert’s horses, Medina Spirit, failed a drugs test after winning the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is required to wait for further results before making a final decision on whether to strip the horse of his victory. The NYRA ban means Baffert will not be able to enter horses at Saratoga Race Course, Aqueduct Racetrack or Belmont Park, the home of the Belmont Stakes, which will take place on 5 June.

“In order to maintain a successful thoroughbred racing industry in New York, NYRA must protect the integrity of the sport for our fans, the betting public and racing participants,” said NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke in a joint statement. “That responsibility demands the action taken today in the best interests of thoroughbred racing.”

Baffert had not committed to entering any horses in the third leg of the Triple Crown but had many in consideration for other races on Belmont Stakes day.

NYRA officials say they took into account Baffert’s previous penalties in Kentucky, California and Arkansas, along with the current situation with Medina Spirit, and expects to make a final determination about the length and terms of the suspension based in information revealed by Kentucky’s ongoing investigation.

Craig Robertson, an attorney who represents Baffert, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone in post-race testing and faces disqualification unless a second test comes back negative. Baffert said on 9 May that 21 picograms of the corticosteroid, which can be used to help a horse’s joints, showed up in the blood sample. Baffert a day later said an ointment used to treat Medina Spirit for a skin condition daily up until the Derby included the substance. Even a trace amount of betamethasone in a horse’s system is not allowed on race day in Kentucky, Maryland and New York.

Maryland officials required Medina Spirit and Baffert-trained Preakness Stakes runner Concert Tour and Black-Eyed Susan entrant Beautiful Gift undergo three rounds of prerace testing before they’d be allowed to run last weekend at Pimlico. All three passed and were cleared to race. Medina Spirit finished third and Concert Tour ninth in the Preakness on Saturday. Beautiful Gift was seventh in the Black-Eyed Susan on Friday.

Baffert has had five violations involving impermissible levels of medication in his horses over the past 13 months. He was fined in Kentucky and Arkansas and avoided a suspension in Arkansas following appeal.

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