The Medina Spirit Problem Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

Horse racing’s woes run far deeper than Bob Baffert’s suspension.

The thoroughbred horse racing industry is for most people non-existent. There are a few days a year where network TV brings big races into the home or the tavern, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont and the Breeders Cup that might get some attention from the non-diehard racing fans. Television ratings for the 2021 Kentucky Derby were down when compared to the 2019 race which was held when there was no pandemic. The 2020 race produced terrible ratings but it was held in September during a period where sports events were gradually returning. But there is a storyline that could create some interest for the Preakness. The Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a drug test. If Medina Spirit was a baseball player there might be calls for a Congressional hearing on players doping. But Medina Spirit is only given what a trainer or handler gives it. Medina Spirit’s trainer Bob Baffert was suspended from racing horses at the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, the home of the Kentucky Derby.

It probably should come as no surprise that thoroughbred horses are given drugs as the horses are not built to perform in races. Since 2010, Pennsylvania state racing officials have recorded more than 1,400 thoroughbred deaths. The horses were put down following catastrophic injuries while others dropped dead in their stalls. There is a theory that horses are dropping dead because of drug use to block pain or to enhance a performance. California has had a big problem with horses dying. There is no national standard for oversight in the horse racing industry and Congress could be called in and establish a federal horse racing oversight board. But the horse racing industry doesn’t want Congressional oversight. The horse racing industry clings to racetrack casino gambling, without it, the business is gone.

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Jockey John Velazquez, left, watches as trainer Bob Baffert holds up the winner’s trophy after they victory with Medina Spirit in the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)