By GARY B. GRAVES AP Sports Writer

BALTIMORE (AP/WJZ) — Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit is headed to Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes while trainer Bob Baffert said Monday that he won’t attend the race to avoid being a distraction in the wake of scrutiny following the colt’s failed postrace drug test.

Medina Spirit’s Derby win by half a length over Mandaloun on May 1 gave Baffert his record seventh victory in the sport’s premier race. That milestone win is now in jeopardy following Baffert’s announcement on Sunday that test results revealed the horse had more than twice the state-allowed amount of the steroid betamethasone.

READ MORE: Medina Spirit Permitted To Enter Preakness, Maryland Jockey Club Says

LOUISVILLE, KY – MAY 01: Trainer Bob Baffert wins his 7th Kentucky Derby after winning the 147th Running of the Kentucky Derby on May 1, 2021 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Baffert is appealing the positive test and part of the original sample will be re-tested. If the violation is upheld, Medina Spirit could be disqualified and runner-up Mandaloun elevated to winner.

The trainer has denied all wrongdoing and promised full transparency with Kentucky racing officials. Churchill Downs nonetheless suspended Baffert from entering horses at the track. The Maryland Jockey Club and Pimlico officials say they will decide on Medina Spirit’s status in the Triple Crown’s middle jewel after reviewing the facts.

Those events will unfold with Baffert back in California instead of at the race where he will go for a record eighth victory.

“I go to Baltimore to have a good time. It’s a fun trip,” Baffert said. “I don’t want to take away from the horses. I think it’d be a distraction if I went. I think it’d be a distraction if I win. The owners will be there. (Assistant trainer) Jimmy (Barnes) can handle it.”

Whether he is in Baltimore or not, the focus right now is on Medina Spirit and Baffert.

Credit: Pimlico

Medina Spirit and Concert Tour, who skipped the Derby, were being transported by van to Baltimore and scheduled to arrive late Monday. The field for the 146th Preakness will be drawn on Tuesday after being pushed back a day because of the uncertainty.

In the meantime, Baffert continued to deal with the fallout from his fifth horse to have failed a drug test in over a year.

Medina Spirit was found to have 21 picograms of betamethasone, which is sometimes used to treat pain and inflammation in horses. It was the same drug found in Baffert-trained filly Gamine, who finished third in last fall’s Kentucky Oaks before being disqualified following a test. Baffert was fined $1,500.

READ MORE: Anti-Fungal Meds Given To Derby Winner Medina Spirit Had Betamethasone, Bob Baffert Says

Baffert acknowledged the criticism he is receiving on social media and understands the public scrutiny of him as the face of horse racing.

“We live in a different world now, this America is different. And, it was like a cancel culture kind of a thing,” Baffert said on Fox News. “So, they were reviewing it. I haven’t been told anything, we’re prepared to run.”

He also expressed disappointment with Churchill Downs officials for a statement announcing his suspension soon after he revealed the failed drug test.

“I thought I had had a pretty good relation(ship) with them with all the stuff I’ve done with my Triple Crown winners,” he said. “I’m the face of the sport and I’m trying to promote my sport. And that was a pretty low blow, what they did yesterday.

I wish they would’ve called me,” he added.

With that, Baffert’s hope is that Medina Spirit can make a strong showing in the Preakness and put the public skepticism to rest — for now.

“I want him to run a good race because now everybody’s piling on him,” Baffert said. “It’s probably more pressure now that he’s got to run well.”

Medina Spirit is expected to arrive at Pimlico Monday afternoon.

As for the investigation into the alleged doping, Baffert said it’ll be a long process.

“There will be a spit sample and there will be a hearing and this is going to take months. This isn’t done within a week. It’s a long period,” he said on Fox News. “We did not cheat to win the Kentucky Derby.”


(© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)