One of horse racing’s top Triple Crown contenders has reportedly tested positive for a banned substance.
According to The New York Times two horses trained by Bob Baffert, Charlatan and Gamine, tested positive for the banned substance lidocaine at Arkansas’ Oaklawn Park. Each horse won at the track May 2, including Charlatan’s dominant victory in the Arkansas Derby. The undefeated colt is considered one of the best three-year-old colts in America, currently fourth in the Kentucky Derby points standings.
Baffert has exercised his right to have a second test performed on the samples and he issued the following statement Tuesday night.
“The rules of the Arkansas Racing Commission mandate confidentiality concerning any investigation into an alleged rule violation until there is a written decision of the Stewards,” the statement reads. “I am extremely disappointed that, in this instance, the Commission has not followed its own rules on confidentiality.
“I am hoping for an expedited investigation and look forward to being able to speak soon about any written decision of the Stewards, if and when it becomes necessary and I’m allowed to under the Commission’s confidentiality rules.”
Lidocaine is a class 2 banned substance with penalties that range from a 15 to a 60-day suspension, enough time to impact whether or not the horse is eligible to race in the Belmont Stakes in June. If proven guilty, Charlatan’s ownership may have to return its $300,000 Arkansas Derby purse.
The use of the numbing agent is not necessarily as a performance enhancer. As Dr. Mary Scollay explained to Horse Racing Nation, it’s banned in certain instances for the health and safety of the horse.
“[Lidocaine] is a legitimate medication that has a role in equine practice. And quite frankly, it would be not appropriate for us to make it a banned substance at all times because that could have a negative impact on equine welfare. I wouldn’t want to have a wound sutured without lidocaine,” Scollay said.
“We want people to be able to use it appropriately, but we also want to make sure that it does not have an impact on a horse participating in a race,” she continued. “That’s why we have withdrawal guidance for its use, we have a regulatory threshold that corresponds to the withdrawal guidance.”
This is not the first time The New York Times has called for an inquiry on Baffert. In September the newspaper reported that Justify, the 2018 Triple Crown winner, failed a drug test after it won its primary Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita. Not only do the horses share trainers, they’re each partially owned by Starlight Racing.