Derby winner Medina Spirit dies after Santa Anita workout

Horse collapses on track after apparent heart attack

CALIFORNIA (WTVQ/Thoroughbred Daily News) – This year’s Kentucky Derby winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Medina Spirit collapsed and died Monday morning on the track at Santa Anita of an apparent heart attack after recording a workout, according to Thoroughbred Daily News and other media outlets.

Bob Baffert, who trained the 3-year-old colt, released a statement noting that the horse died from a heart attack.

“My entire barn is devastated by this news,” Baffert, 68, said per the Associated Press.

“Medina Spirit was a great champion, a member of our family who was loved by all, and we are deeply mourning his loss. I will always cherish the proud and personal memories of Medina Spirit and his tremendous spirit.”

There are plans for the colt to undergo a complete necropsy that will help determine more about the cause of death.

Santa Anita released a statement as well, according to AP, noting blood, hair, and urine samples were taken from the horse and sent to the California Horse Racing Board.

After winning the 2021 Kentucky Derby, which took place in May, Medina Spirit tested positive for a legal medication called betamethasone that is prohibited on the day of the race.

Following Medina Spirit’s failed drug test, Baffert was suspended by Churchill Downs and is not allowed to enter horses in the upcoming 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derbies.

Jeff Blea, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) equine medical director, was sent a video of the workout Monday morning, according to Thoroughbred Daily. In the video, Medina Spirit appeared to labor at the end of his workout, Blea told TDN.

“He looked like he was struggling the last part, and the rider was pulling him up,” said Blea, who added that Medina Spirit collapsed and went down after the wire.

Blea explained that, by the time the track veterinarian reached Medina Spirit, he had already died. “Sudden death is the cause of death,” Blea said, speculating that “oftentimes, these are cardiovascular.”

As per usual in California, Medina Spirit will now undergo a full necropsy examination. A panel of experts will also conduct a review of the fatality.

When asked if he believed there were any suspicious precipitating circumstances behind the sudden death, Blea responded in the negative.

“Absolutely not. We’ll address this like we do all our fatalities, try to find out the reason for it and how to prevent it in the future,” Blea said. “But at this point, there is nothing that’s untoward that I’m concerned about.”

Trained by Bob Baffert, the 3-year-old son of Protonico had just completed five furlongs in 1:01.40 in his second work since finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, according to media outlets citing track personnel.

“I spoke to the attending veterinarian, and when they got to him on the track he had already expired,” said Dr. Blea, former American Association of Equine Practitioners president, speaking from the AAEP convention in Nashville, Tenn. “Not sure where on the track it happened, but it was post wire.

Medina Spirit has been clouded in controversy after post-race tests following the Derby showed a substance banned on race day in his system. Only recently have tests confirmed the substance came from a topical ointment, as Baffert had maintained from the outset, instead of an injection.

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