KY Derby Champ Medina Spirit Dies of Heart Attack. Adds to Long Ugly History for Bob Baffert

Kentucky Derby ‘winner’ Medina Spirit died of an apparent heart attack after a workout this morning in Southern California.  Trained by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, Medina Spirit was a game second in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic last month at Del Mar. This is not the first Bob Baffert horse to mysteriously die.  Let’s look back at a San Diego newspaper report from November, 2013:

Seven of Baffert’s horses died of sudden death between Nov. 4, 2011 and March 14, 2013. Five died in training, two in racing. Five died of cardio-pulmonary failure. Arthur said the amount of deaths “is undeniably exceptional,” but the “cases were not atypical sudden deaths associated with racing and training.” He called the cluster of horse deaths in Baffert’s barn, “extremely abnormal,” and later said, “There is something wrong here.” But the investigation didn’t show what was wrong, he said.

More from the San Diego Tribune on trainer Bob Baffert’s history with unusual heart attack deaths.

Other news: Baffert horses banned from Kentucky Derby

 

New Horse Racing Chief calls Sport’s Clean-up ‘steep climb’

Washington DCThe chairman of horse racing’s future governing body said the failed drug test of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit shows the need for a uniform set of rules and penalties in place of the sport’s current patchwork system.

In his first public comments since being appointed chairman of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority’s board, Charlie Scheeler said Wednesday that Medina Spirit’s case is instructive for how the sport should be run going forward.

The HISA is set to take effect in July 2022, although early work is underway to “try to make a sport which is safer, which is clean, and which is fair to those who we govern,” Scheeler said on Zoom. “It’s quite a steep climb.”

Scheeler, a retired partner at a Baltimore law firm, worked as lead counsel to former Sen. George Mitchell’s independent investigation of performance-enhancing substance use in Major League Baseball, as well as a monitor of Penn State’s compliance with the NCAA and Big Ten on athletics integrity.

He has turned his attention to cleaning up horse racing, which is mired in its latest drug-related scandal.

Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid betamethasone after the Kentucky Derby on May 1, and split-sample test results announced Wednesday by the attorney for trainer Bob Baffert confirmed the drug’s presence. Soon after, Churchill Downs announced it was suspending Baffert for two years through spring 2023, prohibiting the seven-time Derby winner from stabling or racing at tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc…

Eight will get in gate for Belmont Stakes without Trainer Bob Baffert

Belmont Park horse racingTrainer Doug O’Neill knows this isn’t horse racing’s shining moment. Medina Spirit, who won the Kentucky Derby only to fail a drug test, won’t line up at the starting gate at the Belmont States on Saturday. And Medina Spirit’s trainer, Bob Baffert, the sport’s biggest name, won’t have a horse in the race, since he’s temporarily suspended from New York racetracks.

There’s just no escaping any of that — Baffert has even been lampooned on “Saturday Night Live” — but there is, at least, a chance to course correct. O’Neill, whose horse, Hot Rod Charlie, is the third betting choice in a field of eight at 7-2 morning line odds and drew the No. 4 post position at the Belmont Stakes draw on Tuesday morning, could be one of the keys to a changing script. Well, at least for a day.

“I do think this sport could use some more stories of the connections between horse and human and how, like in the Derby, there were like 250 people there all because of Charlie,” O’Neill said. “Charlie brought all these people together, so you know horses are amazing. They’re mirrors of us and we said it all the time, if you give them love, they gave it right back to you. I think these are the stories that we don’t really talk about a lot.”

The 2-1 favorite, Essential Quality, got the second post position, and…

Top Horseplayer Sat Out the Preakness. Here’s Why

Op-ed: Horse racing needs to reckon with its drug problemHorses receive extraordinary care while on track. But it is well past time the industry puts increased effort into making sure that when horses run races, they run with no illegal drugs. That means allowing HISA to take over, begin investigations and increase drug-testing. And when someone gets caught doping and cheating, rather than getting a slap on the wrist or a few hundred dollars in fines, they should banned from the sport.

I’ve been a fan, a bettor, a supporter and an advocate of horse racing for more than 40 years. Because the horse racing industry as a whole has turned the other cheek with respect to drug cheats, I’m ready to turn the page on horse racing — unless the leaders of the sport do what baseball and cycling have done to their cheating participants. They must punish the cheaters, and restore integrity and safety to the game…

Baffert and American Pharoah shift focus to Belmont, Triple Crown

Triple Crown NBC Bob Baffert worried about his horse in the days after the Kentucky Derby. American Pharoah had won, yes, but he hadn’t seemed himself on race day. The madhouse scene at Churchill Downs had worn him out. So it was left to a record Preakness crowd to see the true majesty of Baffert’s champion as he rumbled…