Two undefeated horses from the barn of two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert have come back positive in split-sample testing for a banned substance in Arkansas.
Baffert confirmed to The Associated Press via text message Monday that he had been informed of the positives for lidocaine involving Charlatan and Gamine in the second round of testing, which he had sought under his rights after the first positives occurred in late May. The New York Times, citing anonymous sources, initially reported on the positive tests.
Lidocaine, a widely used anesthetic in racing, is considered a Class 2 drug by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, and use of it carries a penalty of a 15- to 60-day suspension and a fine of $500 to $1,000 for a first offense. Without mitigating circumstances, a horse would be disqualified and forfeit its purse. Lidocaine's use is regulated because it can act as a masking agent.
Charlatan tested positive after earning $300,000 for winning a split division of the Arkansas Derby on May 2 at Oaklawn Park. The 3-year-old colt has been sidelined by a minor ankle issue that forced him to miss the Belmont Stakes on June 20 and will keep him out of the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. Baffert has said the Preakness on Oct. 3 remains a possibility. The Triple Crown series has been rescheduled and is being run out of order because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gamine, a 3-year-old filly who tested positive after winning at Oaklawn on May 2, won her most recent start in the Acorn Stakes on June 20 at New York’s Belmont Park. She romped by 18 3/4 lengths in stakes-record time, and Baffert is considering running her against males in the Kentucky Derby.
Baffert said in a statement that he believes both horses were “unknowingly and innocently” exposed to lidocaine by one of his stable employees. The employee had broken his pelvis and was suffering from back pain in the days leading up to May 2. He applied a pain relieving patch, which contained small amounts of lidocaine, according to Baffert's statement.
Baffert said he believes the lidocaine from the patch was inadvertently transferred from the employee's hands to the horses through the use of tongue ties applied by the employee who handled both animals leading up to their races.
“This is a case of innocent exposure and not intentional administration,” Baffert said in the statement. “The extreme sensitivity of modern day testing can now pick up trace levels of innocent contaminants that have no effect on a horse. This is an issue that regulators of horse racing need to account for and address.”
The level of licocaine in Gamine on May 2 was 185 picograms, while Charlatan had 46 picograms, according to the trainer's statement. A picogram is a trillionth of a gram.
Baffert told the AP he had no additional comment.
No one at the Arkansas Racing Commission responded to phone or email messages after hours Monday. The commission will next hold a hearing on the case.