Medina Spirit, who won the 2021 Kentucky Derby, died Monday after a workout at Santa Anita in California.
The 3-year-old had just completed a five-furlong workout when he collapsed on the track.
Kentucky Derby first place finisher Medina Spirit suffered a sudden death after working five furlongs this morning at Santa Anita, Dr. Jeff Blea, @caCHRB equine medical director, has confirmed.
— Ray Paulick (@raypaulick) December 6, 2021
“When the track vet got to him, he had already expired,” Blea said. “Our presumption is a cardiovascular insult,” Dr. Blea said. “We’re not going to speculate on what caused it. We presume it’s cardiovascular but we don’t know. He’ll undergo a full necropsy which includes toxicology and forensics and see if we can identify the cause of death.”
Trainer Bob Baffert released a statement through his attorney:
“It is with great sadness that I am reporting Medina Spirit passed away today from a heart attack at Santa Anita following a workout. My entire barn is devastated by this news. 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. Our most sincere condolences go out to Mr. Amr Zedan and the entire Zedan Racing Stables family. They are in our thoughts and prayers as we go through this difficult time.”
Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit died this morning at Santa Anita on the track. Could be sudden death. Siren went off as horses were working out. Horse emergency van went out right past the finish line. Very sad.
— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) December 6, 2021
Medina Spirit’s victory in the Derby was clouded in controversy after he tested positive for an illegal substance.
Eight days after the Derby, Baffert disclosed the betamethasone positive at a press conference outside the barn where Medina Spirit was stabled at Churchill Downs.
Medina Spirit galloping this morning. pic.twitter.com/Bt8RU0Trdy
— Ernie Belmonte (@ErnieBPhoto93) December 2, 2021
Only Friday, Baffert’s legal team claimed proof that the colt had been treated with an ointment and had not received an injection.
“The betamethasone in an injection is betamethasone acetate. The betamethasone in the topical ointment is betamethasone valerate. Only betamethasone acetate is addressed and regulated in the rules of racing in Kentucky. Thus, the presence of betamethasone valerate in Medina Spirit, which resulted from a topical ointment, is not a rules violation,” W. Craig Robertson, Baffert’s lead attorney, stated in a press release.
Robertson continued, citing findings from the New York Equine Drug Testing and Research Laboratory’s director, George Maylin:
“Dr. Maylin’s testing not only confirmed the presence of betamethasone valerate, but also the absence of betamethasone acetate. This should definitively resolve the matter in Kentucky and Medina Spirit should remain the official winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby.”