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The Sports Report: Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit dies

Exercise rider Humberto Gomez takes Medina Spirit over the track during a training session before the Preakness in May.
Exercise rider Humberto Gomez takes Medina Spirit over the track during a training session before the Preakness in May.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

John Cherwa on horse racing: The specter surrounding Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit took the most horrible of turns Monday morning when the 3-year-old colt collapsed and died on the track after a workout at Santa Anita.

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A necropsy will be performed, although early indications point to a heart attack.

Medina Spirit and his trainer, Bob Baffert, have been at the center of a nationwide controversy after the horse tested positive for a legal medication, but not legal on race day, after winning the Derby. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has not charged Baffert with anything or stripped Medina Spirit of the win, pending a hearing and enhanced testing results. Churchill Downs has banned the Hall of Fame trainer from its track for two years.

Medina Spirit had just finished a five-furlong workout around 7:45 a.m. when he collapsed.

“At the end of the breeze, he was slowing down at the wire,” said Jeff Blea, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board. “Right after the wire, he looked odd, and you could see the horse stagger and then he just laid down past the wire. Track vets got to him right away, but he was already gone. These types of things are presumed to be cardiovascular events, but the necropsy will tell us more.”

Laurie Bohannon, senior veterinarian at Santa Anita, took blood, hair and urine samples from the colt to start the standard necropsy process. The samples were sent to the state testing laboratory at UC Davis, as will the body. This type of incident is called “sudden death” and the necropsy is more thorough as opposed to that after a muscular-skeletal incident, more commonly known as a breakdown.

“There is more toxicology and forensics,” Blea said. “But given the high-profile nature of this, it will be a priority.”

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Six things to know about death of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit

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USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: The inevitable exodus has begun at USC.

Edge rushers Hunter Echols and Juliano Falaniko, defensive tackle Jake Lichtenstein and kicker Alex Stadthaus all entered the NCAA transfer portal on Monday, while offensive tackle Jalen McKenzie announced he would forgo an extra season of eligibility to enter the NFL draft.

Defensive line coach Vic So’oto also announced on Monday in a social media post that he would not be retained as part of USC’s new staff.

The four departing players are likely just the beginning of major turnover under Lincoln Riley, as the new coach works to rebuild the roster of a team that fell to 4-8 this season, its worst record in 30 years.

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley holds up the Big 12 championship trophy after beating Texas in 2018

An entirely new staff could also be in the works, as Riley had already brought a defensive coordinator (Alex Grinch) and receivers coach (Dennis Simmons) with him from Oklahoma. Tulsa offensive line coach Zach Hanson is likely to join the group as a tight ends coach, while Oklahoma outside linebackers and defensive ends coach Jamar Cain is also expected to join USC’s staff.

CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: Tyronn Lue can live with plays that do not work. He shrugs when shots taken within the flow of an offense do not go in.

But what made Lue and other Clippers shake their head Monday, before and during a 102-90 win in Portland, were the times when trouble has emerged before plays can even begin. Cramped spacing born out of confusion. Players freelancing outside of the expected structure.

“Random basketball,” coach Tyronn Lue said.

Six weeks into the season, it has happened frequently enough that it has become not so much random but a gratingly regular occurrence, with Lue counting sometimes 17 wasted possessions a game. In the second quarter of Saturday’s loss to Sacramento alone, Lue counted eight possessions when the Clippers couldn’t even begin their assigned play.

“I don’t think we’re good enough right now to play random basketball without getting to our spots, without pushing, pushing the pace, getting to our spots,” he said. “And then once you run to play, now you got to play after that play, and that’s what we got good at last year. So I got to do a better job with our team.”

Monday was supposed to be the opportunity for this offense to awaken. Portland already owned the league’s worst defense over the past month – and that was before injuries cost it its starting backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, plus a top reserve guard and a promising forward. Sensing an opportunity, Lue injected more shooting into his lineup by starting guard Luke Kennard, a 42% three-point shooter, for the first time this season.

Instead it was another slog in a string of them, the struggles by the Clippers (13-12) to score equaled only by their difficulty stopping a Trail Blazers offense that virtually ran its entire offense through only guard Norm Powell and center Jusuf Nurkic. Facing few double teams, Nurkic scored a season-high 31 points, while Powell scored 29.

LAKERS

Dan Woike on the Lakers: The Lakers have pledged to take the long view this season with LeBron James at the front of that line. Admittedly not always the most patient person, James knew wading through the Lakers’ big changes this offseason was going to take time.

It’s unclear, though, how much longer anyone is willing to wait.

Asked about the criticism directed at coach Frank Vogel for the Lakers’ slow start, James said that anyone on the sidelines should be used to it.

“Criticism comes with the job, you know? Frank is a strong-minded guy. He has a great coaching staff. And we as his players have to do a better job of going out and producing on the floor,” he said. “So, we’re a team and an organization that don’t mind some adversity, that don’t mind people saying things about us, obviously, because it comes with the territory.”

KINGS

Bruce Boudreau got his first win as coach of the Canucks on Monday as Vancouver blanked the Los Angeles Kings 4-0.

The victory came less than 24 hours after the Canucks cleaned house, firing general manager Jim Benning, assistant manager Jim Weisbrod, head coach Travis Green and assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner.

Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko had 30 saves to collect his first shutout of the season and the second of his career. Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller each had a power-play goal and an assist for Vancouver, while Conor Garland and Juho Lammikko also found the back of the net.

Cal Petersen had 27 saves for the Kings, who beat the Oilers 5-1 in Edmonton on Sunday.

Monday was the first time Kings defenseman Alex Edler had returned to Vancouver since signing with L.A. in July. The 35-year-old played 15 seasons in Vancouver and holds a number of franchise records for the Canucks, including most games played by a defenseman (925), and most goals (99), assists (310) and points (409) by a defenseman.

The club recognized Edler with a video tribute during early in the first period, and the veteran blue liner hopped over the boards to wave to the cheering crowd.

DUCKS

John Carlson tied the game late in the second period and then scored Washington’s third and final shootout goal to give the Capitals a 4-3 victory over the Ducks.

Tom Wilson scored his 100th career goal and Carl Hagelin added his first of the season for Washington, which improved 2-0-1 during a four-game homestand. Alex Ovechkin added his 20th and 21st assists for the Capitals, then joined Daniel Sprong in scoring during the shootout.

Ilya Samsonov made 31 saves, including the only one required by either goaltender in overtime.

Sonny Milano had a goal and assist for Anaheim, which a day earlier saw all-time leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf go on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. Vinni Lettieri and Joshn Manson also scored for the Ducks, and Trevor Zegras contributed his 14th and 15th assists in the first of a five-game, seven-day East Coast trip.

CHARGERS

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: The Chargers placed Keenan Allen on the COVID-19 reserve list Monday.

The veteran wide receiver is vaccinated, meaning he can rejoin the team — if he’s asymptomatic — once he passes two tests at least 24 hours apart.

Vaccinated players who are symptomatic must return two negative tests taken at least 24 hours apart and also be asymptomatic for 48 hours, according to the NFL’s protocols.

“He’s day-to-day right now,” coach Brandon Staley said, “and hopefully we’ll have some good news on him in the next few days.”

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud were announced as the finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

The Heisman will be presented Saturday in New York, returning to its usual routine and date after it was forced to delay and go virtual last year because of the pandemic.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1973 — Jerry West sets an NBA record with 10 steals in the Lakers’ 115-111 loss to the Seattle Supersonics.

1985 — Auburn tailback Bo Jackson beats Iowa quarterback Chuck Long by 45 points in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy, the closest vote in the 51-year history of the trophy.

1991 — AJ Kitt becomes the first American in seven years to win a men’s World Cup race, taking the first downhill of the season In Val D’Isere, France.

2002 — St. John’s (Minn.) coach John Gagliardi wins his 400th game with a 21-14 victory over Linfield in the Division III quarterfinals. Gagliardi is the second coach to reach the 400 mark, eight victories behind Eddie Robinson.

2003 — The computer rankings have Oklahoma as the country’s top team while the human poll voters pick USC. Despite getting walloped by Kansas State 35-7, No. 3 Oklahoma takes its 12-1 record to the Sugar Bowl against No. 2 LSU, which won the Southeastern Conference championship by beating Georgia 34-13.

2006 — Willie Parker breaks Pittsburgh’s single-game rushing record with 223 yards as the Steelers rough up the Cleveland Browns 27-7. Parker, the first player in Steelers history to have two 200-yard games in a season, betters John “Frenchy” Fuqua’s record of 218 yards against Philadelphia in 1970.

2008 — The Arizona Cardinals clinch their first division title in 33 years by beating the woeful St. Louis Rams 34-10. The Cardinals, long the league’s doormat franchise with just one winning season in the past 24 years, earn their first playoff berth since 1998 and first divisional title since they won the NFC East in 1975.

2013 — Aurelien Collin scores the equalizer in the second half of the MLS Cup, then drives home the deciding penalty kick to give Sporting Kansas City a dramatic victory over Real Salt Lake and its first league title since 2000. With the score 1-1 through regulation and 30 minutes of overtime, the teams engage in the longest penalty-kick shootout in championship history — one that both sides had chances to win before Collin’s shot and Jimmy Nielsen’s save left Sporting KC with the 7-6 victory.

2014 — The first College Football Playoff expands the national championship race and produces a final four with major star power. Nick Saban’s No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Urban Meyer’s No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes at the Sugar Bowl. Marcus Mariota and second-seeded Oregon vs. Jameis Winston, last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, and defending national champion Florida State at the Rose Bowl.

2014 — Robbie Keane scores on a breakaway in the 111th minute, and Landon Donovan wins his record sixth MLS title in the Galaxy’s 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution in the MLS Cup.

2016 — Napheesa Collier scores 20 points, Gabby Williams has 19 points, 12 rebounds and six assists and No. 1 Connecticut beats No. 2 Notre Dame 72-61 for its 83rd straight victory. UConn’s last loss was 88-86 in overtime to Stanford on Nov. 17, 2014.

2017 — Larry Nassar, a former elite sports doctor whose sexual assault cases that rocked Michigan State University and the group that trains U.S. Olympic gymnasts, is sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for possessing thousands of images of child pornography. Nassar, 54, will also be sentenced for 10 state counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in January. In November, he pled guilty to using his hands to molest girls at his campus office, his home and at a gymnastics club near Lansing, Mich.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

The Galaxy win the 2014 MLS Cup. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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