SCOTT COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Michael Blowen said of the many great thoroughbred champions on his farm, that we expect so much of these horses and they expect very little if anything in return.
Mr. Blowen runs Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, which is the retirement home for former racehorses. It’s also the final resting place for many of them, a list which now includes Medina Spirit, whose ashes were interred alongside those of fellow Kentucky Derby winners, War Emblem, and Charismatic.
“Today is about Medina Spirit. He was a marvelous racehorse,” Blowen said before delivering a brief eulogy about Medina Spirit for the many fans who came to pay their respects on Tuesday.
Medina Spirit died at the age of three, just one month after finishing second at The Breeders’ Cup in November of 2021. Earlier in the year, he tested positive for Betamethasone, a steroid that his trainer Bob Baffert said is found in a topical ointment the horse was given to treat skin irritation.
Mr. Baffert is in the final stages of what’s so far been a losing appeals battle. He might be required to serve a 90-day suspension. To that, Blowen says, the punishment just doesn’t fit the crime.
“He is very interested in the aftercare (of his horses), and he visits his horses every Thursday before the Derby. I just think he hasn’t been treated very well. If he committed a crime then I guess he has to pay the penalty, but to me, this is giving somebody the death penalty for stealing a Snickers bar,” Blowen continued.
A necropsy performed on Medina Spirit following his death was ruled inconclusive. Hair, blood, and urine samples were also taken and showed no signs of doping. Blowen said he simply had a heart attack at a young age.
“I have some horses here who are 31-32 years old,” he said while explaining there’s no rhyme or reason for a horse’s life span.
“From our veterinarian, I found out that horses that have a heart attack don’t have them the way we have them. There’s no clogged arteries or anything like that. It’s something in their electrical system that just stops,” he said.
The former Boston Globe journalist then made a comparison to a similar situation to a professional athlete from Boston.
“It’s very similar with what happened to Reggie Lewis and how he died when he was with the Celtics,” Blowen said.
Lewis died during the prime of his career while working out during the summer at Boston’s Brandeis University.
Fans from all over central Kentucky came to raise a glass of bourbon to Medina Spirit. One fan, who traveled from Dallas, Texas said that Medina Spirit helped her get through chemotherapy treatments.
“He was the little horse that couldn’t, they said. And he overcame and made me feel like I could too.”
Michelle Flanakin said she went into remission the day before Medina Spirit died. That’s why she felt compelled to be here today. It’s why Blowen felt compelled to offer his grounds for the champion’s final resting place.
“The owner agreed, and now if people want to come see Medina Spirit’s grave (they can). Maybe he’ll finally rest in peace?” Blowen concluded.