California Horse Racing Board releases statement on death of Medina Spirit

The 2021 Kentucky Derby winner collapsed and died during a workout at Santa Anita Park on December 6.

Medina Spirit, the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, collapsed and died during a workout in California on Monday morning. That afternoon, the California Horse Racing Board released a statement saying the organization will be conducting a necropsy and toxicology tests to try to determine the cause of death:

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. 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. —CHRB, December 6, 2021

A positive drug test for betamethsone put Medina Spirit at the center of controversy after he finished first in this year’s Kentucky Derby. Bethamethasone is a corticosteroid that is illegal to give to horses on race days. Following the positive test, trainer Bob Baffert was banned from running horses at Churchill Downs racetrack for two years. Baffert subsequently sued for additional testing to prove the positive test result came from a topical ointment that had been used to treat a skin rash on the colt’s leg. That investigation was still ongoing at the time the colt died. 

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