Kentucky Derby Winner Medina Spirit Dies on Track From Apparent Heart Attack

The horse collapsed and died on the track at Santa Anita after a workout Monday morning

Medina Spirit leads the field at the first turn during the 147th Kentucky Derby
Medina Spirit leading the field at the first turn during the 147th Kentucky Derby.
Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, the colt that tested positive for the steroid betamethasone after winning the May 1 race and is facing disqualification, died this morning on the track at Santa Anita after suffering an apparent heart attack following a workout.

The horse’s owner Amr Zedan confirmed the news to Thoroughbred Daily News. “I just heard. He had a heart attack,” Zedan said. “It was quick and he didn’t suffer. It’s unfortunate. We had such high hopes for him and so many plans. We were going to go to the Saudi Cup and possibly to Dubai. We wanted to campaign him all next year. The last thing I expected was to hear something like this. It is God’s will.”

California Horse Racing Board Equine Medical Director Jeff Blea reviewed a video of Medina Spirit’s workout and said the horse appeared to be laboring before collapsing and dying before a track veterinarian could reach him.

“He looked like he was struggling the last part and the rider was pulling him up,” Blea told TDN. “Sudden death is the cause of death. Oftentimes, these are cardiovascular.”

When asked, Blea said he did not believe there were any suspicious circumstances that led to the sudden death. “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.”

Following Medina Spirit’s failed steroid test, trainer Bob Baffert, who has had five violations involving the levels of medication in his horses over the past 13 months, was suspended by Churchill Downs and barred from entering horses in the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derby. Baffert, who somehow blamed his doping suspensions on “cancel culture,” was also banned by the New York Racing Association from entering horses at its Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct racetracks.

Recent testing of a urine sample from the Kentucky Derby winner determined that the steroid that was present in the colt’s system came from a topical ointment and not an injection, according to an attorney for Baffert. Betamethasone is a legal substance, but it is not allowed in Kentucky, Maryland and New York, the Triple Crown states, on race day.

“It has now been scientifically proven that what Bob Baffert said from the beginning was true — Medina Spirit was never injected with betamethasone and the findings following the Kentucky Derby were solely the result of the horse being treated for a skin condition by way of a topical ointment — all at the direction of Medina Spirit’s veterinarian,” Baffert’s attorney Craig Robertson said in an email to the Associated Press.

Medina Spirit most recently finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar last month.

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