Kentucky Derby favourite Charlatan's test results under review after Grade 1 win
The Bob Baffert-trained Charlatan, winner of the first of two divisions of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park this month, did not pass initial post-race testing, it has been reported.
As a result, testing is being done on a split sample, according to a report in the BloodHorse.
Bernie Hettel, state steward at Oaklawn, confirmed on Tuesday that two horses that raced on May 2 did not clear testing but, citing confidentiality, said he was unable to provide horse names or their connections.
Horsemen have the right to call for split sample testing to see whether or not it confirms the initial sample test, with stewards and regulators making no decisions before receiving the results of the split sample testing.
Based on an unnamed source, the Louisville Courier-Journal also reported on Tuesday that two failed tests were from horses trained by Bob Baffert, including one of his top three-year-olds.
Baffert trains not only Charlatan, who is the ante-post favourite for the Kentucky Derby with some firms, but also Nadal, winner of the second division of the Arkansas Derby.
He also took an allowance race on the same card with Gamine, the only other runner he saddled at Oaklawn on the day in question.
Baffert issued a statement on Tuesday, which was acquired by BloodHorse.
"The rules of the Arkansas Racing Commission mandate confidentiality concerning any investigation into an alleged rule violation until there is a written decision by the stewards," he said.
"I am extremely disappointed that, in this instance, the Commission has not followed its own rules for 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."
Charlatan earned $300,000 for his victory in the opening division of the Arkansas Derby, racing for the partnership of SF Racing, Madaket Stables, Starlight Racing, Stonestreet Stables, Fred Hertrich III, John Fielding, and Golconda Stables.
Shortly after his impressive six-length romp, which now sees him as short as 4-1 for the Kentucky Derby on September 5, Hill 'n' Dale Farms secured the breeding rights to the promising son of Speightstown.
A split sample is typically requested when a horse tests positive for a prohibited substance, usually on findings that could result in a disqualification and/or loss of purse, or cause a suspension or fine for a trainer.
The split sample provides the affected party due process and a means to potentially dispute findings if it is inconsistent with the initial lab findings.
Baffert previously came under scrutiny last September when it was revealed in the New York Times that 2018 Triple Crown hero Justify was found to have a prohibited level of scopolamine in his system after he won the 2018 Santa Anita Derby (Grade 1) in April 2018.
No action was taken against the trainer or toward the purse, with the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) never calling a positive because it attributed the lab's finding for scopolamine as environmental contamination tied to jimsonweed based on the expertise of its equine medical director, Dr Rick Arthur.
The scopolamine results were not confirmed by the CHRB until the New York Times article, more than 17 months after the Santa Anita Derby.
Hettel said a split-sample test can be returned as soon as within five days, though Covid-19 conditions across the United States have closed some state laboratories and could slow the process.
If the new laboratory split sample disputes the findings of the first, there is rarely any means for the case to go forward. Confirmation, on the other hand, leads to stewards investigating the matter.
"Then we'd have a hearing, testimony, get lab reports, veterinary reports, people-involved reports, take testimony, and the stewards contemplate it and issue a ruling. That's a long way off," Hettel said.
If Charlatan is ultimately disqualified, it could have implications that go beyond the purse of the race, which would need to be redistributed, with the crucial qualifying points he earned for the Kentucky Derby potentially needing to be reallocated.
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