Kentucky Derby 147 winner Medina Spirit dies on track at Santa Anita Park

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 12:05 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2021 at 2:47 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The winner of Kentucky Derby 147, Medina Spirit, is dead after collapsing Monday morning.

The horse suffered a heart attack and “died immediately” on the main track after a workout at Santa Anita Park in California, according to a California Racing Board spokesperson. Trainer Bob Baffert also confirmed the colt’s death in a statement through his lawyer.

Medina Spirit was owned by Amr Zedan of Zedan Racing Stables.

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Medina Spirit
Medina Spirit(WAVE 3 News)

“My entire barn is devastated by this news,” Baffert said. “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.”

“It’s been a tragic racehorse from day one,” horse trainer Dale Romans said. “To come from obscurity like he did and climbing the mountain top, but then have all the controversy around the Derby like he did. It’s just a sad day for horse racing.”

The horse’s body will be necropsied and toxicology tests will be performed, according to the California Racing Board.

“The 3-year-old colt Medina Spirit, trained by Bob Baffert, was just completing a workout on the main track at Santa Anita this morning (December 6) when he collapsed near the finish line,” the statement from the California Racing Board said. “He died immediately. This is termed a sudden death. All horses that die within facilities regulated by the California Horse Racing Board undergo postmortem (necropsy) examination at a California Animal Health and Food Safety diagnostic laboratory under the auspices of the University of California, Davis. Cause of death cannot be determined until the necropsy and toxicology tests have been completed.”

Darren Rogers issued a statement on Medina Spirit’s death on behalf of Churchill Downs. It said, “Churchill Downs mourns the tragic loss of Medina Spirit and extends our deepest condolences to his fans and all who loved this horse.”

Baffert and Medina Spirit, a 3-year-old thoroughbred, sparked controversy after the horse failed a post-race drug test after winning the Derby. A banned race-day substance, betamethasone, was discovered in the horse’s system; subsequently, in June 2021, Baffert was suspended from racing horses at Churchill Downs for two years.

“It’s far from the end,” horse racing analyst Caton Bredar said. “It’s going to bring about a lot of discussion and questioning. And that questioning is probably appropriate. I think everybody needs to question what’s happening and why it continues to happen.”

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Medina Spirit races to victory in the 147th Kentucky Derby.
Medina Spirit races to victory in the 147th Kentucky Derby.(John P. Wise)

“Well the biggest thing is obviously going to be Bob Baffert and the finger-pointing at him as doing something wrong again,” Romans said. “I mean, horses can die like this. They can do anything people can do. They can get pneumonia. They can have strokes. They can have seizures. They can have heart attacks, just like a human. And I mean, I would bet you I’d say it has nothing to do with something Bob’s done negative, it’s just puts another dark cloud over his stable. It’s just amazing, statistically, the things that have gone wrong in that stable.”

Baffert has contended Medina Spirit was given betamethasone as an ointment for a skin rash after his veterinarian recommended it; the use of the drug as an ointment, according to his lawyers, does not violate the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s rules. Rather, betamethasone as an injection is against KHRC regulations.

This story will be updated.

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