Medina Spirit, who failed drug test after winning 2021 Kentucky Derby, dies during workout

Medina Spirit, who failed a drug test after winning the Kentucky Derby this year, died during a workout Monday morning in California.

The horse collapsed while training at Santa Anita, the horse’s trainer, Bob Baffert, confirmed.

He said his “entire barn” was devastated by the a 3-year-old colt’s death.

“Medina Spirit was a great champion, a member of our family who was loved by all, and we are deeply mourning his loss,” Baffert said in a statement to NBC News. “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.”

California’s Horse Racing Board said Medina Spirit was just finishing his workout when the colt collapsed at the finish line. He died instantly, according to the board.

“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,” the racing board said.

An official cause of death is pending the results of the examination and toxicology reports.

The horse tested positive for betamethasone following the May 1 Derby. Betamethasone is a legal medication that is not permitted on race days.

Baffert denied accusations that he drugged the horse following a split urine test, saying the drug was in Medina Spirit’s system due to a topical ointment.

The controversy left a stain on both the legacy of Baffert and Medina Spirit. Baffert was hit with a 2-year suspension from the Churchill Downs track in June.

Baffert sued for additional testing to prove the betamethasone was from the Otomax ointment. The horse’s win was not officially disqualified at the time of his death as the investigation was ongoing.

Santa Anita has also been subject to investigation in recent years. California Gov. Gavon Newsom ordered an independent review after 29 horses died at the racetrack from 2018 to 2019. A report published last year by the California Horse Racing Board cleared the track of any criminal wrongdoing, saying there was no evidence of animal cruelty or unlawful conduct.

The board did, however, recommend a series of changes after necropsies found that many of the horses who died at Santa Anita had pre-existing issues.

Some of the recommendations included a standardized protocol for when to move races off, additional veterinary examination, digitizing veterinary records for the horses and more frequent track surface testing.

This is a breaking story, please check back for updates.

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