Medina Spirit Collapses, Dies After Santa Anita Workout

This year’s Kentucky Derby first-place finisher Medina Spirit collapsed and died after a workout at Santa Anita Park on Monday morning, the California Horse Racing Board’s Equine Medical Director Jeff Blea confirmed. 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.

“I spoke to the attending veterinarian, and when they got to him on the track he had already expired,” stated 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.

“I will have them draw blood and pull hair and will try and get urine for testing. He’ll go out to UC Davis in San Bernardino, for a full and
comprehensive necropsy involving toxicology, forensics and tissue sampling. We will take a close look at the heart to try and identify the cause of death.”

The Daily Racing Form reported Juan Ochoa was aboard Medina Spirit, and that the exercise rider walked away uninjured.

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The colt’s Derby win stays in jeopardy due to a positive post-race test result for betamethasone, a therapeutic medication that is not permitted on race day.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has not yet held a hearing, required to disqualify Medina Spirit, but on Friday attorneys for Baffert released a statement claiming that tests conducted by a New York laboratory have “definitively confirmed” Medina Spirit tested positive for a corticosteroid not through an injection but because of an ointment used to treat a skin rash.

Medina Spirit was bred in Florida by Gail Rice, mother of Eclipse Award finalist Taylor Rice (apprentice jockey) and mother-in-law to top jockey Jose Ortiz, out of the Brilliant Speed mare Mongolian Changa. The mare failed to produce milk when Medina Spirit was first born, and Rice had to turn to her only other broodmare, Scribbling Sarah, for assistance. The young Medina Spirit thrived, and his own mom started producing milk several hours later.

Unfortunately, Rice’s divorce forced the sale of Medina Spirit as a yearling. He brought the bottom-dollar bid of $1,000 at the OBS Winter Mixed sale in early 2019.

Bloodstock agent Gary Young saw the 2-year-old Medina Spirit at the 2020 OBS July sale, and recommended the purchase to Amr Zedan, who was able to purchase the colt for $35,000.

Medina Spirit won the G3 Bob Lewis, then underwent throat surgery after a sound defeat in the G2 San Felipe. The colt rebounded to run a good second in the G1 Santa Anita Derby before heading to Louisville.

Medina Spirit has run four times since his Kentucky Derby win, finishing third in the Preakness Stakes and recording victories in the Shared Belief Stakes and the Grade 1 Awesome Again. Overall, the colt’s record includes five wins, four seconds and a third from 10 starts, with earnings of $3,545,200.

Baffert had been aiming Medina Spirit at the Saudi Cup in February.

“The Santa Anita Park veterinary team, led by Senior Veterinarian Dr. Laurie Bohannon, immediately took blood, hair and urine samples from Medina Spirit. Those samples were sent to the California Horse Racing Board.

A full necropsy, as per protocol in California, run by the University of California – Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine will be performed to try and ascertain the exact cause of this sudden death. The results of the necropsy and toxicology studies will be released by the California Horse Racing Board as part of their inquiry into the cause of this unfortunate event.

“Medina Spirit will be missed by all those who worked with and cared for him. He was owned by Zedan Racing Stables and trained by Bob Baffert.”

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