Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit collapsed and died Monday after a workout at Santa Anita.
The 3-year-old colt trained by Bob Baffert had just completed five furlongs in his second workout since finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic a month ago at Del Mar. Baffert confirmed the colt’s death and attributed it to a heart attack.
On average, thoroughbreds live 25 to 30 years, with genetics, diet and living conditions all factoring into a horse’s life expectancy.
Heart attacks occur when blood vessels are clogged, usually by fatty deposits, reducing the flow of blood to the heart, which results in damage or failure of the muscle. According to the University of Kentucky’s Department of Veterinary Science, horses don’t commonly suffer from heart attacks — but they are prone to heart disease. However, cardiovascular issues are more prevalent in older horses.
Medina Spirit will undergo a full necropsy, which is required by the California Horse Racing Board. In his last race, the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, Medina Spirit finished second.
The 2021 Derby win was thrown into question within days after the disclosure that Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test, leading Churchill Downs to suspend Baffert for two years.
Marty Irby, executive director of advocacy group Animal Wellness Action, offered condolences for Medina Spirit’s death and criticized the practice of doping in horse racing.
“Race-day doping has no place in American horse racing, and we have to wonder if doping contributes not only to on-track injuries and death but also to post-track health risks,” Irby said in an emailed statement.
Amina Elahi contributed to this story.