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Medina Spirit Winning 2021 Kentucky Derby

An unfortunate news in the horse racing world broke out on Monday. Trainer Bob Baffert announced that 2021 Kentucky Derby champion horse Medina Spirit had died of heart attack at Santa Anita Park.

According to an email written by Baffert, he said “The news has put our entire barn in a gloomy state. Medina Spirit for us is more than just a racing champion, he was our family, he was cherished by all of us, and we are deeply sorry for his death.”

An official statement of Santa Anita Park has released a toxicology and full necropsy report done by senior veterinarian Dr. Laurie Bohannon. The samples that had been taken from Medina Spirit were sent to the California Horse Racing Board for further analysis.

The Kentucky Derby

At the 2021 Kentucky Derby on May 1, Medina Spirit and his jockey John Velasquez won by a unanimous decision over Mandaloun. Medina Spirit had a profitable odds in 12Play during the derby.


The victory at Kentucky Derby was the seventh win for Baffert in the event, along with Ben Jones tying for the position for the most wins by a trainer in the history of the race.

However, a week later after the event, both Baffert and Medina Spirit were subjected to a controversy that is still ongoing. It was revealed by Baffert that Medina Spirit was tested positive for having betamethasone.

A corticosteroid called Betamethasone is basically an artificial steroid that is equivalent to cortisol, an organic hormone that is produced by the adrenal gland in humans. The substance was legal to be used on horses for therapeutic purposes albeit when used on race day it was deemed illegal because it can be used as a performance enhancer.

According to the organizers of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs will declare the victory of Medina Spirit and Baffert null and void if it was proven that the horse has been injected with a performance booster. 

Baffert’s party, along with the park’s owner Amr Zedan filed a response saying that the substance that was detected in the horse’s blood samples came from a topical ointment and not injected in the animal.

Bob Baffert’s suspension at Churchill Downs event

Craig Robertson, the legal representative of Baffert revealed that the betamethasone substance was indeed present in the system of the racing horse during the event. However, it was confirmed that it was from an ointment called Otomax.

Robertson said, “It was indeed scientifically proven that the initial statement of Baffert was true albeit the substance was injected to Medina Spirit with the purpose of treating the horse’s skin condition as per veterinarian.”

Despite the pleas of Baffert’s side, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, Dr. Mary Scollay stated that a presence of a Class C substance like betamethasone is a cause of an unchangeable disqualification. 

According to the official statement of Churchill Downs, Baffert is subjected to suspensions of two years, until the end of the 2023 Spring Meet. The suspension includes the 2022 and 2023 Kentucky Derby.

Medina Spirit’s racing career

Medina Spirit has recorded a 5-4-1 statistic for his whole racing career along with a total earnings of $3,545,200 for the Zedan Racing Stables.

The thoroughbred has competed in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis horse race, he also finished as a runner-up in the Grade 3 Sham, Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and, Grade 2 San Felipe. 

Following the victory at the Kentucky Derby in May, Medina Spirit managed to finish third at the Preakness horse race.

Final thoughts

Despite having a controversial feat before his eventual demise, Medina Spirit was deemed as a racing horse made to be a champion. 

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