What killed Medina Spirit? Inside the champion horse’s mysterious death

She’d given birth to him as a newborn and now can’t believe he’s gone.

Gail Rice, the breeder who assisted Medina Spirit’s mother through her struggle to give birth to him three years ago, struggled to believe that the Kentucky Derby champion died of an apparent heart attack while training at the Santa Anita track in California on Monday.

“I was like, ‘No, you’ve got to be kidding me…this can’t be,'” Rice remarked. “It takes a while for it to sink in. You believe it is impossible for this to be true. Then you begin to cry.”

Rice is incensed that detractors are now citing his death as proof that the sport is brutal and should be banned, as horrified as she is about the champion’s unexpected death.

“I don’t see how anybody can accuse us of abusing them.” “But there are still people who claim the horse was doped up and that’s why he had a heart attack,” she said. “If they saw how well these horses are cared for, they wouldn’t say that.” That was not the case. His heart had stopped beating.”

So, what’s the deal? did Medina Spirit’s death was caused by what?

Medina Spirit surveys the crowds at Churchill Downs one week before his Kentucky Derby victory.
One week before winning the Kentucky Derby, Medina Spirit examines the crowds at Churchill Downs.
Courier Journal/Pat McDonogh

The underdog colt tested positive for betamethasone, a pain-killing, anti-inflammatory steroid, after his unlikely victory in Kentucky on May 1. Medina Spirit’s victory was revoked by Churchill Downs authorities, who also barred his trainer, Bob Baffert, from entering his horses on any of their racetracks for the next two years.

“Mr. Churchill Downs Incorporated said in a statement that Baffert’s track record of testing failures “threatens public trust in Thoroughbred racing and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby.”

Medina Spirit breeder Gail Rice walks a yearling at the Magic Oaks Farm in Citra, Fla.
Gail Rice, a Medina Spirit breeder, walks a yearling at Magic Oaks Farm in Citra, Fla.

Failure to follow the regulations and medication protocols endangers the horses’ and riders’ safety, the integrity of our sport, and the reputation of the Kentucky Derby and everyone who participate, according to the statement. “It will not be tolerated at Churchill Downs.”

The New York Racing Association also kicked Baffert out, and his suspension will be reviewed in January.

According to a Washington Post investigation, the Hall of Fame trainer has a history of wins and failed drug tests in his stable, and has had 74 horses die under his care in his native state of California since 2000. Medina Spirit, according to Baffert, was never given betamethasone, a medicine that can be used as an injectable therapy but cannot be present in the bloodstream on race day because it may improve performance.

He then claimed that his veterinarian treated a rash on the horse’s hindquarters with Otomax, a fungus-fighting skin cream containing the topical form of betamethasone, daily for a month until the day before the Derby. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is still looking into the situation.

The level of betamethasone found in Medina Spirit — 21 picograms — has been dismissed by Baffert as “extremely minute,” arguing that the substance “wouldn’t effect the [performance of the] horse” (A picogram is one-trillionth of a gram.)

Medina Spirit trainer Bob Baffert lifts the winning trophy at the Kentucky Derby. Afterwards, the horse failed a drug test and was stripped of the title.
Bob Baffert, the trainer of the Medina Spirit, accepts the Kentucky Derby trophy. After failing a drug test, the horse was stripped of his title.
courtesy of Getty Images

Is it feasible, though, that the medication had a long-term effect on the horse’s health?

Dr. Rick Arthur, a recognized expert on horse health, revealed that Baffert’s staff had been using the corticosteroid ointment on Medina Spirit for a month previous to the Kentucky Derby.

“Long-term corticosteroid use can obstruct the adrenal glands,” Arthur explained, resulting in lesser cortisol production and associated side effects include weight loss, exhaustion, and muscular weakness.

“However, I’ve never seen an issue with betamethasone because it’s usually only used for a few days, and it’s unusual to use it for more than two weeks.”

He claims that even if the substance is misused, it will not become life-threatening because it does not build up like other types of steroids.

Medina Spirit and jockey John Velazquez win the Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again on Oct. 2, 2021 at Santa Anita racetrack, which has been cited for multiple horse fatalities.
Medina Spirit and jockey John Velazquez won the $300,000 Awesome Again at Santa Anita Racetrack on Oct. 2, 2021.

“It has a very limited half-life in the body after it’s absorbed,” he explained.

He went on to say that betamethasone was unlikely to play a factor in Medina Spirit’s heart failure.

“They have nothing to do with each other,” he explained. “Having examined this topic thoroughly, I can tell you that these presumptive cardiac failures have no antecedent clinical indicators.”

According to the facility’s director, Dr. Ashley Hill, Medina Spirit’s body is now being transported to a lab run by the University of California at Davis in San Bernardino, where a series of forensic examinations will attempt to discover what killed him.

The horse’s body will be opened up for a necropsy, during which “we’ll check for apparent causes – damaged limbs or a significant quantity of blood, a cracked neck,” Hill added. “We take samples of all the organs and examine them under a microscope,” says the researcher. We look for viruses as well as signs of harmful compounds. Individual pathologists are free to pursue whatever areas they believe are most promising. The goal is to figure out what caused the fatality, as well as to use the information to prevent future tragedies.”

The exterior of Santa Anita Park is seen in Arcadia, Calif.
Multiple horse deaths have been reported at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.

Sadly, Hill’s organization, the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, pioneered the science of equine postmortems and performs hundreds of necropsies each year, said that an unexplained death of a horse is “not atypical,” especially among young thoroughbreds.

“We’re able to figure out the cause around half of the time,” she said. “We can guess around 20% of the time about the source, and the rest of the time, despite our best efforts, we can’t figure it out.”

Santa Anita, on the other hand, is known for its terrible safety record. According to a state-run study led by Dr. Arthur, 23 horses died at the track in 2019, 22 of which involved deadly injuries and one heart attack.

Medina Spirit, out in front at the Kentucky Derby, died on Monday aged three from reported heart failure.
Medina Spirit, the Kentucky Derby favorite, died of heart problems on Monday at the age of three.
courtesy of Getty Images

According to the report, some of the horses showed signs of overwork, and the racetrack was fined for breaking safety guidelines.

“The main issue with Santa Anita was that the track had an excessive amount of rain and wasn’t appropriately controlled,” Arthur explained. “There wasn’t necessarily a safety culture.”nbsp;

“However, there have been significant improvements: increased veterinarian control and a more restrictive pharmaceutical protocol,” he noted. The outcomes have been outstanding.”

Last year, the number of deaths at Santa Anita was down to ten.

Medina Spirit being born
Medina Spirit with Gail Rice’s daughter Emily as a newborn foal.
Rice, Gail

Medina Spirit was far from the first champion horse to pass away while still young.

“It happened to Swale,” Arthur said, referring to the three-year-old horse who won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in 1984 but died abruptly eight days later while having a sponge wash after a short workout. The cause was heart failure.

Patrick Battuello, an anti-racing campaigner, believes that three-year-olds are too young to be forced into racing.

On his Horseracing Wrongs website, he states, “The typical horse does not attain full musculoskeletal maturity — bones not done developing, plates not done fusing — until approximately six.”

“And as you go higher, the process slows down, so the bones in your spine and neck, of all places, are the last to finish.” The average racehorse is thrown into the mix. intensive  Started training at the age of 18 months and raced at the age of two. A six-year-old youngster is roughly similar to a two-year-old horse. Many people get chronic illnesses like arthritis as a result of this early, constant grinding.”

According to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, a thoroughbred’s life expectancy is between 25 and 28 years.

Rice believes Baffert is receiving a rough punishment, despite his history of transgressions.

She explained, “The horse didn’t get an injection.” “On his hip, he had ointment.” I really feel bad for Bob Baffert. It’s just that he doesn’t deserve it. They want to cast aspersions before anything is established.”

Bob Baffert, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, was banned from racing at Churchill Downs after Medina Spirit failed his drug test.
After Medina Spirit failed a drug test in May, trainer Bob Baffert was barred from racing at Churchill Downs for two years.

Baffert issued a statement after Medina Spirit died on Monday, stating, “This news has crushed my entire barn.” We are profoundly saddened by the passing of Medina Spirit, a magnificent champion and a member of our family who was adored by all. I will always remember the proud and personal recollections of Medina Spirit and his tremendous spirit.”

Rice has a greater memory of the horse’s spirit than most. She claimed she was in the winner’s circle with Medina Spirit on Derby day, kissing him on the head after he finished first.

“‘You’re such a good boy,’ I told him.”

In her 40-year experience as a breeder, Medina Spirit was one of her favorites, she noted.

Despite this, she stated that she “can’t be sad” over his unfortunate death.

“Take a look at what he’s done. I’m grateful to God for bringing him into my life so that I may have these opportunities.”

Source: https://nypost.com/2021/12/09/what-killed-medina-spirit-inside-the-champion-horses-mysterious-death/

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