By Bill Finley
The Arkansas Racing Commission has confirmed that two horses that raced on the May 2 card at Oaklawn Park, including one in the GI Arkansas Derby, have tested positive for an illegal substance. When reached by the TDN, Bernie Hettel, Arkansas’s state steward declined to name the horses or the substance involved. He did confirm that both positives involved the same trainer and that the matter involved only one of two divisions of the Arkansas Derby.
The Daily Racing Form‘s Jay Privman, citing “multiple sources” reported that one of the horses in question was Charlatan (Speightstown), who won a division of the split Arkansas Derby for trainer Bob Baffert.
The Louisville Courier Journal‘s Tim Sullivan also reported Tuesday that the horses in question were trained by Baffert and that they had tested positive for a “banned substance.” Baffert won both divisions of the Arkansas Derby, taking the second division with Nadal (Blame). Baffert also won an allowance race on the card with Gamine (Into Mischief). The Courier Journal story did not specify which of the Baffert horses had tested positive.
Baffert issued a statement Tuesday that read: “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. 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 TDN sent a follow-up text to Baffert asking what drug was involved. He did not respond.
Hettel said split samples of the tests had either been sent to a referee laboratory or would be on their way shortly.
“As of today, a referee laboratory has been offered, selected and accepted by the Baffert group,” Hettel told the TDN. “Other than that we will have to wait for the result to get back from the referee.”
Hettel said getting samples tested has been difficult during the coronavirus and he did not know how long it would take before receiving tests results from a referee lab. A final ruling cannot be reached until after the results of the split sample test become known.
“If the test is confirmed, we will continue on,” Hettel said. “If it can’t be confirmed, we will drop the case. We will have to wait on that. It’s a matter of how long it takes.”
He added that he has been in touch with the trainer involved.
“I have had multiple conversations over this past weekend with that trainer,” Hettel said. “And I have told him exactly what the result was, asked if he wanted a copy of the lab work that was done and then told him of the availability of laboratories for confirmation.”
Baffert has said that both Nadal and Charlatan may have their next starts in the June 20 GI Belmont S. Charlatan earned 100 Kentucky Derby points with his six-length win in the Arkansas Derby, the only points on his record as his two prior wins came in a maiden and an allowance race.