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Bob Baffert, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, stands near the track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. April 28, 2021. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

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Feb 21 (Reuters) - Medina Spirit's victory in the 2021 Kentucky Derby has been nullified due to the presence of a banned drug in his system and trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended for 90 days and fined, racing stewards ruled on Monday.

The dark bay colt's win in May's Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs had delivered Baffert a record seventh win in North America's most prestigious race until a post-race sample found betamethasone, a corticosteroid.

The test result led to a protracted battle between Baffert and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that ended with Monday's ruling, which suspends Baffert from March 8 to June 5 and will keep him out of this year's Kentucky Derby. He was also fined $7,500.

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Baffert has sought to draw a distinction between injectable betamethasone and betamethasone that is absorbed through an ointment, which is how he believes the drug entered into the colt's system.

"I am very disappointed in the ruling," Baffert told Reuters in a statement via his lawyer.

"It runs contrary to the scientifically proven facts in this case and the rules of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. We will be filing an immediate appeal."

Baffert, one of the best known trainers in the world, has come under scrutiny from state horse racing regulators in recent years after some of the horses in his stables tested positive for banned substances.

Medina Spirit raced again at the Preakness Stakes in mid-May and finished third, but was banned from the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of U.S. thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown.

He died of a heart attack following a workout at a California racetrack in early December. read more

After the steward's ruling was handed down, Churchill Downs congratulated Mandaloun, the colt who had crossed the line second, and his trainer Brad Cox and jockey Florent Geroux on the win.

"Winning the Kentucky Derby is one of the most exciting achievements in sports and we look forward to celebrating Mandaloun on a future date in a way that is fitting of this rare distinction," Churchill Downs said in a statement.

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Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles Editing by Christian Radnedge

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