Baffert horses in new doping case: reports

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Los Angeles (AFP)

Two horses trained by US racing legend Bob Baffert failed drug tests at a recent meeting in Arkansas, US media reports said Wednesday.

The two horses, including highly rated Kentucky Derby contender Charlatan, tested positive at the Oaklawn Park meeting on May 2.

The meeting is a qualifying event for the 146th Kentucky Derby, which has been rescheduled for September 5 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

If the tests are confirmed, it could deal a blow to two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Baffert.

Baffert faced scrutiny last year after it emerged that his 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify had failed a drugs test ahead of the Kentucky Derby.

Justify escaped sanction for that case after California authorities ruled that positive test could have been the result of contaminated food.

In a statement released to US media, Baffert expressed dismay that the latest positive cases had been leaked into the public domain.

"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," Baffert said. "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."

The US racing calendar has been thrown into disarray by the COVID-19 pandemic, with both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes at Pimlico racecourse shifted to September and October respectively.

The Triple Crown season will instead start with the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in New York on June 20.

Racing figures said the industry would aim to resolve the latest Baffert case ahead of Belmont, in order to avoid a repeat of 2018, where Justify galloped to the Triple Crown despite failing a drug test before the Kentucky Derby.

"We will not have a situation like in California, where a horse ran in the Kentucky Derby after failing a drug test," Oaklawn Park owner Louis Cella told The New York Times.

"That was an embarrassment to the industry. We will push to have this cleared up by the Belmont Stakes."