Medina Spirit, the three-year-old thoroughbred racehorse whose 2021 win at the Kentucky Derby drew controversy when he later tested positive for a corticosteroid, died this morning after collapsing after a track workout at Santa Anita Park in California.
According to the Paulick Report, a horseracing news publication, Medina Spirit collapsed following a five furlong workout, with a preliminary cause of death being a heart attack. The horse’s rider was unhurt.
The news was confirmed by the California Horse Racing Board’s Equine Medical Director Jeff Blea. A comprehensive necropsy including toxicology, forensics, and tissue sampling, will be performed at UC Davis in San Bernardino, California. An attorney for Medina Spirit trainer Bob Baffert confirmed the death to the Associated Press.
Medina Spirit’s Derby win remains under dispute due to the positive test for betamethasone, a medication prohibited on race days. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has not yet held the required disqualification hearing.
Located east of Los Angeles, Santa Anita Park opened in 1934 and is California’s most widely known racetrack – but also among its most controversial. The facility has been under scrutiny since 2018 over an alarming number of horses dying during racing or training. Former Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey organized a task for to investigate and released a report two years ago that found “no criminal wrongdoing” on Santa Anita’s part. The track has improved its safety record since the 37 horses died during the troubled 2019 racing year.
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