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Medina Spirit, disputed Kentucky Derby winner, dies of a heart attack

Medina Spirit, the disputed Kentucky Derby winner at the center of horse racing’s doping scandal, has died from an apparent heart attack following a training session in California, according to multiple reports.

The Bob Baffert-trained colt had just completed a five-furlong workout at Santa Anita Park, according to Thoroughbred Daily News, which reported the news. 

‘My entire barn is devastated by this news,’ Baffert said in a statement. ‘Medina Spirit was a great champion, a member of our family who was loved by all, and we are deeply mourning his loss. I will always cherish the proud and personal memories of Medina Spirit and his tremendous spirit.’ 

‘I just heard. He had a heart attack,’ owner Amr Zedan told TDN. ‘It was quick and he didn’t suffer. It’s unfortunate. In a moment like this there is not much that we can do. All I can say is that he gave us the ride of our lives and brought everyone together. We are mourning this loss, Bob [Baffert], myself, our team and [jockey] Johnny [Velazquez], as well. We are all very sad.’ 

The cause of the heart attack was not immediately known.   

Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone, a prohibited substance, in May and was banned from running in the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of the triple crown. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has not yet issued a final decision on the matter as Baffert has claimed Median Spirit ingested the betamethasone through an anti-fungal ointment and not through an injection. 

Medina Spirit, the disputed Kentucky Derby winner at the center of horse racing's doping scandal, has died from an apparent heart attack following a training session in California

Medina Spirit, the disputed Kentucky Derby winner at the center of horse racing’s doping scandal, has died from an apparent heart attack following a training session in California

Trainer Bob Baffert (L) Jockey John Velazquez (C) and Horse Owner Amr Zedan hold up the winners trophy after the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 1,

Trainer Bob Baffert (L) Jockey John Velazquez (C) and Horse Owner Amr Zedan hold up the winners trophy after the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 1,

Bob Baffert led Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit back to the barn on the morning after the race. Medina Spirit is Baffert's seventh Kentucky Derby winner on May 2

Bob Baffert led Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit back to the barn on the morning after the race. Medina Spirit is Baffert’s seventh Kentucky Derby winner on May 2

Clark Brewster, an attorney for Zedan Racing, said the testing of the sample was completed by the New York Racing Laboratory and ‘scientifically confirmed’ Medina Spirit was not injected with betamethasone.  

‘The Kentucky Racing Commission has steadfastly enacted rules relating to corticosteroid joint injection and have drawn a bright line rule that no injections are permitted within 14 days of a race,’ read the statement.

‘Now there is zero doubt that the 14-day rule some thought might have been violated by the earlier, less specific testing is revealed as premature judgment. That groundless accusation is without scientific merit.’

California Horse Racing Board equine medical director Jeff Blea and Dionne Benson confirmed Medina Spirit’s death to Bloodhorse.com on Monday. The CHRB did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for confirmation.  

The cause of the heart attack hasn’t been determined.  

‘We don’t know the cause and sometimes even after the necropsy, we don’t know,’ Benson told BloodHorse. 

A general view of atmosphere at Santa Anita Gold Cup Race Day at Santa Anita Race Track on May 26, 2018 in Arcadia, California. Medina Spirit suffered a heart attack at the track Monday

A general view of atmosphere at Santa Anita Gold Cup Race Day at Santa Anita Race Track on May 26, 2018 in Arcadia, California. Medina Spirit suffered a heart attack at the track Monday

Baffert, a seven-times Kentucky Derby winner, was banned by Churchill Downs for two years following Medina Spirit’s failed drug test.

He has since claimed to be the victim of ‘cancel culture.’

‘With all the noise going out, we live in a different world now,’ Baffert told Fox News in May. ‘This America is different. It was like a cancel culture kind of a thing.’

Baffert sued in June to compel Kentucky horse racing officials to conduct more testing on Medina Spirit before vacating the victory. 

‘The manner in which the betamethasone found its way into Medina Spirit is critical,’ read the complain filed in Franklin County (Kentucky) civil court. ‘There is a huge difference in a betamethasone finding due to an interarticular joint injection versus one from a topical ointment — from both a regulatory and public relations standpoint.’ 

Last week, a split sample test for the three-year-old confirmed that the presence of betamethasone was from a topical ointment, Brewster said. 

Medina Spirit in the winner's circle after the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby in May

Medina Spirit in the winner’s circle after the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby in May 

Also in June, Baffert sued New York horse racing officials for suspending him from running horses at state racetracks. 

Baffert claimed the New York Racing Association (NYRA) unconstitutionally usurped the authority of the state’s gaming commission by taking away his trainer’s license indefinitely.

He said a prolonged suspension from racing horses in New York or stabling them at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course could cause him to lose horses worth tens of millions of dollars to other trainers.

‘This will effectively put me out of business in the State of New York,’ Baffert said in a filing in the federal court in Brooklyn.

In July, a federal judge nullified the NYRA suspension, saying the organization failed to provide him a post-suspension hearing.

The ruling was a significant win for the trainer, one of the most successful and recognizable figures in the sport, and allowed for him to compete in New York state races again.




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