Britannica defines the famous Occam’s razor (also spelled Ockham’s razor), or the law of parsimony, as follows: “principle stated by the scholastic philosopher William of Ockham (1285–1347/49) that pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate, ‘plurality should not be posited without necessity.’  The principle gives precedence to simplicity: of two competing theories, the simpler explanation of an entity is to be preferred.” 

The simplest and most likely explanation for Medina Spirit testing positive for 21 picograms of the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone in the 2021 Kentucky Derby is that an individual or individuals intentionally administered it to him rather than some explanation about accidental contamination.

The key questions are: who administered betamethasone, when was it administered, and who knew about it and authorized it?  The best chance for ever answering these queries is through the use of the time-tested determinant of human behavior: incentives.

Consider the grim situation facing the owner (Amr Zedan) and trainer (Bob Baffert) of Medina Spirit.  On their present course, the overwhelming likelihood is that the split sample will corroborate the original sample (95% of split samples confirm the first sample) and the Kentucky State Racing Commission and Churchill Downs will then disqualify Medina Spirit.  Consequently, Baffert and Medina Spirit’s reputations will forever be sullied, the winner’s $1.86 million share of the $3 million Kentucky Derby purse will be forfeited (90% of $1.86 million goes to the owner and 10% each to the trainer and jockey), and the owner will incur huge legal fees in a protracted and uphill battle to get the ruling reversed through the appeals process.

Alternatively, Zedan and Baffert, who has professed his innocence, could pursue and announce as soon as possible an incentive-laden route that has a much higher probability of finding the truth.  A reward of $465,000 (one-fourth of the winner’s share of the Derby purse) would be offered for information leading to the identification of the person or persons who gave Medina Spirit betamethasone.  Wouldn’t this amount be worth it to Zedan and Baffert to absolve the trainer and horse…and possibly even win their appeal?

A law firm specializing in forensics would be put in charge of drafting unambiguous language pertaining to the conditions under which the reward would be paid, including perhaps passing a lie-detector test, and putting into place a method for conveying information to the law firm.

Would, say a groom or hot walker or veterinary assistant privy to the truth, come forward for $465,000? 

Copyright © 2021 Horse Racing Business


  1. For 465k the perp might confess. Brilliant solution…much better than legal haggling.