Medina Spirit, 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, was not pronounced dead at the necropsy.
Friday’s release by the California Horse Racing Board of the results from the examination after the colt died in a Santa Anita workout.
Bob Baffert, the trainer of Medina Spirit, said that the colt had suffered a heart attack. Medina Spirit was just five furlongs into his second workout after finishing second in November’s Breeders Cup Classic.
According to the necropsy report, Medina Spirit had swollen lungs, foam in his windpipe and an enlarged spleen. He also suffered mild hemorhages in other tissues. These conditions are common in horses who suddenly die and are compatible with but not specific for a heart attack.
Medina Spirit’s victory in the Kentucky Derby last May was questioned after he tested positive to betamethasone, which is a legal medication that is prohibited on race day in Kentucky.
Churchill Downs suspended Baffert and banned him from entering horses at the 2022 or 2023 Kentucky Derbys. The New York Racing Association also banned Baffert from entering horses at the Belmont, Saratoga, and Aqueduct tracks.
Medina Spirit was necropsed and found that the anti-ulcer medication Omeprazole as well as the diuretic Lasix were present in urine and blood samples. This is consistent with the CHRB medication report submitted by the attending veterinarian.
According to the report, no other drugs, heavy chemicals or toxicants were found.
“We were hopeful that the necropsy might have revealed more information regarding the pathophysiology leading to Medina Spirit’s sudden cardiac arrest. But it appears that his tragic and unpreventable death was an act by God,” Clark Brewster, Baffert’s attorney, stated in a statement.
He said that the necropsy results showed that sudden cardiac death was possible and they were consistent with similar reports about sudden deaths during exercise. “Extensive toxicological testing of multiple samples revealed no unexpected substances. There is no evidence that Medina Spirit suffered cardiac arrest from medication.”
The necropsy involved gross examination of the body, internal organs, as well as specimen collection for microscopic inspection, toxicology, drug testing, or genetic testing. Some specimens were also kept for future testing.
The CHRB stated that Medina Spirit was cremated after the examination.
The horse was examined during the necropsy for obvious causes of death as well as visually apparent abnormalities. Tissue samples from the liver, heart, liver, spleen and kidney were taken. They were also examined under the microscope to determine if there were any abnormalities.
The liver tissue was tested for heavy metals and anticoagulants as well as pesticides, environmental contaminants, drugs, or other products. The presence of hundreds of legal and illegal drugs was checked in blood and urine samples, including betamethasone, clenbuterol and EPO.
Dr. Alina Vale will then review the necropsy reports. The review will also include participation by a safety steward as well as a member from the board of directors.
The CHRB will investigate any potential rule violations discovered during the review process. This could lead to a complaint or disciplinary action.