(LEX 18) — Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit died Monday morning.
Churchill Downs says the three-year-old colt died suddenly on the track at Santa Anita Park of a "probable cardiac event," according to the on-site veterinary team who attended to him.
"Medina Spirit will be missed by all those who worked with and cared for him," Churchill Downs said in a statement.
"Shock, you can't see these things coming," said Kenny Rice, who covers the Kentucky Derby for NBC Sports and has followed horse racing for decades. "Obviously, a three-year-old that's coming off a great race that had been training well going into a fourth-year season. Nothing like this was expected."
He was owned by Zedan Racing Stables and trained by Bob Baffert.
"I could only imagine right now that Baffert's just feeling, probably, all the worst emotions that one could possibly feel," said Rice. "I think [Medina Spirit will] go down as one of the ill-fated horses of all time."
Necropsy and toxicology tests will be performed to try and ascertain the exact cause of this sudden death.
"Horses can die like this," said Thoroughbred racehorse trainer Dale Romans. "They can do anything people can do. They can get pneumonia. They can have strokes. They can have seizures. They can have heart attacks, just like a human."
The colt has been in the news several times since the Kentucky Derby, in a controversy over possible disqualification. The Derby winner tested positive for the steroid "Betamethasone" after winning this year's derby and faced possible disqualification. Trainer Bob Baffert had said an ointment used to treat the colt for a skin condition contained the substance.
Follow-up urine testing has shown that a steroid present in the colt’s system came from a topical ointment and not an injection.
"I hope it's a time for most people not to speculate and get into controversy and everything right now, but to reflect on a little horse that had great determination and finished first in the Derby, third in the Preakness, won two other races after the Preakness, and then finished second in the Breeders' Cup Classic," Rice said. "He was a horse that had a really outstanding three-year-old season."