Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Once Again at the Center of Kentucky Derby Controversy

Days away from the second stop in the triple crown and Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit is in danger of being disqualified following a positive drug test for betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory drug. 

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, an independent state agency whose members are appointed by the governor of Kentucky is once again thrust into the national spotlight, and will potentially change the outcome of the Kentucky Derby. 

Churchill Downs notified the media over the weekend that if a second split-sample test also reveals doping then Medina Spirit will be disqualified and Mandaloun will be declared the winner of the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs is waiting on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission before taking further steps in regards to trainer Bob Baffert, who has been suspended from entering any horses at the track.

This is not the first time a Kentucky Derby winner has been dethroned post-race by the Horse Racing Commission. The most recent example came in 2019 when Maximum Security was disqualified for impeding the path of other horses. The last time a horse had their Derby win vacated for testing positive to banned substances came in 1968 when Dancer’s Image, according to the Courier-Journal. The Horse Racing Commission ordered the runner-up of the race to be declared the winner but did not change the payoff for wagers on the horses. 

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission which will decide Medina Spirit and Baffert’s fate is charged with regulating the conduct of horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing in Kentucky. The commission has 15 members who are appointed by the governor when their term expires or when a member resigns from the commission.

The current executive director of the commission is Marc Guilfoil, who was appointed by Gov. Matt Bevin in January of 2016. Guilfoil is the brother of potential GOP candidate for governor and former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Knight Craft. 

The commission just ducked controversy in the days leading up to the Derby as Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, was allowed by the Horse Racing Commission to race his horse, Essential Quality after a complaint was filed before the United Nations and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission alleging the Sheik is holding his daughter, Princess Latifa hostage in Dubai. As Kentucky Fried Politics first reported former UN Ambassador and shadow-gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft never spoke out on the human rights issue, even as she entertained the Secretary-General of the United Nations at the Derby with her brother. Guilfoil even showed the UN Secretary-General and the Turkish Ambassador to the United States how to read the wagering book at the Derby.

Craft was once “hosted by the princess of Dubai,” according to Maclean’s a Canadian news outlet.

With this new controversy bubbling, Guilfoil and the other political appointees will have to make a decision based on the split-test which could dethrone Medina Spirit. A similar association in Maryland is closely watching to determine the thoroughbreds race day fate at The Preakness on Saturday.