By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Bob Baffert’s name is at the centre of another controversy amid reports that star filly Gamine failed a dope test after the Kentucky Oaks.
Sent off odds-on favourite for America’s most important race for three-year-old fillies on September 4, Gamine was beaten into third behind surprise winner Shedaresthedevil.
On Thursday, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission announced a Class C medication violation had been found from the initial samples from horses tested at Churchill Downs on Oaks day.
The New York Times later reported that Gamine was the horse to have tested positive for the corticosteroid betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory medication. Investigative journalist Joe Drape cited two unnamed sources in saying Gamine has returned the positive test.
In a statement which labelled the report as “inaccurate”, Baffert’s attorney Craig Robertson confirmed that Gamine was the horse involved.
A split sample will now be tested to confirm any findings, with the result expected in November.
Baffert, 67, arguably the world’s most recognisable racehorse trainer, was suspended for 15 days earlier this year after Gamine and stablemate Charlatan tested positive following victories on the Arkansas Derby card at Oaklawn in May.
Both horses tested positive for an above-threshold amount of local anaesthetic lidocaine, with Baffert saying the result was due to cross-contamination from a human back-relief patch used by assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes.
Gamine, a high-profile daughter of Into Mischief, is currently ante-post favourite for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Keeneland on November 7. Baffert won his sixth Kentucky Derby the day after the Oaks with Authentic.
Baffert’s attorney Craig Robertson does not contest that Gamine was given the substance, but says it was done legally within recommended parameters of a 14-day withdrawal period.
As such, the positive test would amount to what American racing circles refer to as an ‘overage’ (more of the substance remains in the horse’s system than thresholds allow).
Drape, whose report pointed out that Baffert has 28 career violations to his name, said his allegations came from “two people familiar with the result of the drug test who requested anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the issue publicly”.
Robertson hit back at the allegations, saying: “The current reporting on Gamine is inaccurate and needs to be cleared up.”
In a statement, Robertson said that betamethasone is a “legal, commonly used anti-inflammatory medication. It is not a ‘banned substance’.
“The medication was administered to Gamine on August 17 by her veterinarian and on the veterinarian’s recommendation.
”If they are told by regulators that a medication will clear a horse’s system in 14 days, they must be able to rely on that information.”
In his defence, Robertson outlined details of the Gamine test results, suggesting current threshold levels are “way too low”.
He said: ”Gamine’s test revealed 27 picograms of betamethasone. The current threshold in Kentucky is 10 picograms.
“A picogram is a trillionth of a gram. Twenty seven picograms is a minuscule amount that would not affect a thousand-pound animal.”
• More US news at the Paulick Report website