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Horse Racing

Dead Horse Guilty

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - MAY 12: Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness entrant Medina Spirit is bathed following a training session for the upcoming Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 12, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Somewhere, Medina Spirit, the horse who won the 2021 Kentucky Derby, just learned what a profound mistake it is to rely on humans for anything other than trampling and fodder. That he is learning it from Afterlife Downs is all part of the story.

Medina Spirit just got disqualified by the stewards at Churchill Downs a mere 10 months after the Derby and two months and change after he went and died, which sucks twice as much as just getting bumped off the stud fee gravy train. Seems his trainer, Bob Baffert, got caught yet again playing fast, loose, and creepy with the minimal rules horse racing has for doping its athletes, and in the time and distance it takes to race a horse from Lexington to the moon the wrong was righted. Baffert was suspended for 90 days pending a tedious and unjustifiably successful series of appeals. Mandaloun was named the winner while being blissfully unaware of not only the amended result but the original result, the race itself, and even the concept of time. Everyone still on this mortal 1-1/4 mile coil came away feeling like something akin to justice was done.

In the meantime, there is the now aptly named Medina Spirit wondering what the hell happened. He was famous, then he was dead, then he was disgraced, and all he ever did was run until his heart blew up like the humans demanded. Frankly, in his post-mortem rage he is that oddest of twisted cliches: pissed like a racehorse.

At least that’s what we’d like this to become—the first chapter in a book of horsey revenge on everyone who wronged him. A well-meaning horse who did everything a horse can be expected to do, did it, and is now a figure of shame at room temperature. If a horse could say “This is total bullshit,” Medina Spirit would do so, and then would punctuate his complaint with a breathtaking pyramid of horseshit.

This is a grimmer version of what happened to a certain Russian Olympic figure skater, who also trusted people in authority and found out what a losing proposition that is. This is not to make horses and young women equal in the eyes of low-grade narrative peddlers like the contemptible laundry heap before you now, but it does illustrate the similarities: “Trust me, take this, oh you got caught, well, you should have tried harder.” Sadly, trying harder was the problem all along.

The lesson? We need a more perfect world in which the figure skaters humiliate, drug, lie to and about the coaches, and eventually leave them to be humiliated in the kiss-and-cry-and-be-bludgeoned-by-angry-parents area. And better still, a more perfect world in which the horses administer the hot shots and the humans sprint around a track in panic while other horses scream from the grandstand/paddocks at the horse jockeys riding the humans that they need to use more of the whip. It might not be edifying sport, but at least Medina Spirit would look down on Kentucky’s most famous attraction and say in that Mr. Ed baritone, “Yeah, I’m dead and all, but it was all worth it. At least this part. Now let’s go get a julep.”

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