In the days leading up to the 147th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1), usracing.com is profiling all the contenders. The 1 ¼-mile Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs is May 1 and is the first leg of the Triple Crown. All profiles will be updated with post positions, odds, and jockeys following the draw on Tuesday, April 27.
By Ed McNamara
After Concert Tour’s flop in the Arkansas Derby, is this guy Bob Baffert’s best Derby candidate? Could be, and if he is, don’t expect a record seventh victory this year.
Medina Spirit is pretty good but not great. He was overshadowed twice by stablemate Life Is Good — the Derby favorite until he was injured — before running second in the Santa Anita Derby. Medina Spirit was 4 1/4 lengths behind Rock Your World, whose front-running brilliance in his main-track debut convinced a lot of people he could win at Churchill Downs.
One of them was Baffert.
“I was very impressed with John Sadler’s horse Rock Your World,” Baffert said. “He just ran away from us, and he went fast, and he just kept getting faster and faster. He just kept galloping out.”
Medina Spirit is a tough colt who in five races has never been out of the exacta. The $1,000 yearling also already has earned more than $180,000 over his $35,000 price in a 2-year-olds-in-training sale.
On Jan. 30, he won a three-horse photo in which future Louisiana Derby winner Hot Rod Charlie finished third. Hot Rod Charlie’s 110 Derby qualifying points are second only to undefeated Essential Quality (140), the Derby favorite. But Medina Spirit lost his last two races by a combined 12 1/4 lengths and expecting a dramatic turnaround in Louisville is unrealistic.
Post position: TBD
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: John Velazquez
Owner: Zedan Racing Stables
Career record: 5-2-3-0
Career earnings: $315,200
Derby qualifying points: 74 (8th)
Best Equibase speed figure: 109
Pedigree: Protonico-Mongolian Changa, by Brilliant Speed
Color: Dark bay
Running style: Front-runner/stalker
Notes: Medina, a city in Saudi Arabia, is a major Islamic pilgrimage site. Its Green Dome rises above the tomb of the prophet Muhammad … You probably never heard of Medina Spirit’s sire, Protonico, a son of Irish champion Giant’s Causeway. Protonico won four graded stakes and ran second in the 2014 Clark Handicap and the 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup … Owner Amr F. Zedan is a Saudi businessman who met Baffert at the 2018 Dubai World Cup. “If it wasn’t for Bob and the confidence I have in him, I wouldn’t be doing this” he told thoroughbreddailynews.com … He bought into 2014 Derby-Preakness hero California Chrome not long before he won the 2016 Dubai World Cup. “The problem is that I first tasted the sport on top with California Chrome,” Zedan said. “I thought that would be the norm.” He soon learned otherwise.
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.