MEDINA SPIRIT, the controversial Winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby, died of an apparent heart attack following a five-furlong workout Monday morning at Santa Anita Park.
The incident happened after the horse completed a five-furlong workout in 1:01.40. The breeze took place at about 7:45 Pacific Time.
California Horse Racing Board Equine Medical Director Jeff Blea said there were signs of trouble near the conclusion of the workout.
“He looked like he was struggling the last part, and the rider was pulling him up,” Blea said.
Blea added that by the time a track veterinarian reached the 3-year-old MEDINA SPIRIT, the colt had already died.
It was the second workout for MEDINA SPIRIT since his 2nd place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic back on November 6th.
As per usual in California, the horse will now undergo a full necropsy examination. A panel of experts will also conduct a review of the fatality.
When asked if he believed there were any suspicious precipitating circumstances behind the sudden death, Blea responded in the negative:
“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.”
Sudden cardiac death in racehorses is Extremely Rare.
In a 10-year period between 2007 and 2017 in California, 8.2% of all training and racing related fatalities were sudden deaths. From data collected between 2007 and 2013 in California, approximately one sudden death occurred per 9,000 starts, and about one sudden death per 160,000 training days.
Between 2011 and 2013, seven Bob Baffert trained horses died suddenly during training or racing. A subsequent California Horse Racing Board report found that Baffert-trained horses during that period were significantly more likely to die from sudden death than non-Baffert trained horses, calling the difference “dramatic.”
The report noted that the horses had been administered thyroxine–a thyroid hormone used to treat hypothyroid conditions–and that use of thyroxine is “concerning in horses with suspected cardiac failure.”
However, because the drug had been administered to all horses in Baffert’s care at that time, the use of thyroxine “does not explain why all the fatalities occurred,” the report found.
The Daily Racing Blog is of the opinion that all of the veterinary records of MEDINA SPIRIT should be seized immediately (if not already), lest they be tampered with. A thorough investigation should follow, and Baffert’s attorneys should not be allowed to control the narrative.
Pending the outcome of the necropsy and investigation Santa Anita and Del Mar should shut down the Baffert barns.