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Will Kentucky Derby Betting Winnings be Redistributed after Medina Spirit’s Failed Test?

Kentucky Derby and Medina Spirit Failed Test

On Sunday, May 5th, competitive horseracing was thrown into turmoil by the news that Medina Spirit, winner of the 147th Kentucky Derby, might face disqualification. The thoroughbred tested positive for elevated levels of betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory that is banned for competing horses.

Trainer Bob Baffert was subsequently suspended from Louisville’s Churchill Downs, and if a second test comes back with the same finding, Medina Spirit’s win will be invalid.
Second place finisher Mandaloun will become the winner.
What does this mean for bettors? Can Medina Spirit winnings be clawed back? Can Mandaloun ticketholders receive a payout?

The Letter of the Law

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission regulation is clear. Section 10 states that payouts are made “on the basis of the order of finish as declared ‘official’ by the stewards or judges.” The regulation goes on to say that no decision made after the official declaration affects the payouts.

Nevada casinos, which took bets separately from Kentucky, abide by the same standard. They payout according to the official judgment on Derby Day, regardless of any subsequent changes.

Historical Precedents

This would hardly be the first time that the first horse over the finish line didn’t end up winning the Kentucky Derby.

Only two years ago, Maximum Security finished first in the field, but his win was invalidated for interference with another horse. However, the race results were not finalized at the time of the disqualification. Consequently, the official decision correctly reflected second-finishing horse Country House as the winner.

In 1968, first-finisher Dancer’s Image tested positive phenylbutazone after the official declaration. He was disqualified, and runner-up Forward Pass became the winner. Dancer’s Image bettors still got the payout, since he was first on the official raceday decision. The 1968 running is a good antecedent for what will happen if Medina Spirit gets nixed.

The Bottom Line

If you already cashed your Medina Spirit ticket, you can go ahead and spend that money. Indeed, even if you haven’t redeemed that ticket, it will continue to stand even if the horse’s win is invalidated.

On the other hand, those of you with Mandaloun tickets are likely out of luck.

Without a doubt, a Medina Spirit disqualification would be an ugly moment for horseracing. Even so, it has been educational for those that bet on the sport.

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