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Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit dies after suffering heart attack following a workout

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Medina Spirit, the horse that finished first in this year’s Kentucky Derby but failed a drug test after the race, died after suffering a heart attack Monday at a Southern California racetrack, trainer Bob Baffert said. The trainer said Medina Spirit died following a workout at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California.

Baffert attorney Craig Robertson initially confirmed the death to CBS News. The California Horse Racing Board said in a statement a necropsy would be performed at a lab run by the University of California, Davis, and a cause of death can’t be determined until the examination and toxicology tests have been completed.

The 3-year-old colt died immediately after collapsing near the finish line on Santa Anita’s main track Monday morning, the board said.

“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.”

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The colt finished first at the Kentucky Derby in May, but the horse tested positive for the anti-inflammatory steroid betamethasone. Medina Spirit went on to a second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and third in the Preakness Stakes, but was banned from participating in the Belmont Stakes.

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Baffert got a two-year suspension at Churchill Downs, where the Derby is held, and was also suspended by the New York Racing Association.

On Friday, Robertson said the kind of betamethasone given to Medina Spirit leading up to the Derby isn’t regulated by Kentucky’s racing rules. The attorney said testing of a post-Derby split sample conducted by a New York lab showed the presence of betamethasone valerate, which Robertson said is in a topical ointment given to the colt for a skin condition. He said the lab didn’t detect betamethasone acetate, which he said is used in injections. Kentucky only regulates the use of the latter drug in racing, Robertson said.

“It has now been scientifically proven that what Bob Baffert said from the beginning was true — Medina Spirit was never injected with betamethasone and the findings following the Kentucky Derby were solely the result of the horse being treated for a skin condition by way of a topical ointment — all at the direction of Medina Spirit’s veterinarian,” Robertson said in an email to the Associated Press.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which is investigating the matter, hasn’t held a hearing on the case. The commission said in a statement Monday it was “saddened” to hear of Medina Spirit’s death and its investigation is ongoing.

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