By David Ginsburg
Kentucky Derby winner (for now) Medina Spirit and stablemate Concert Tour have been installed as the top two picks on the morning line for the $1 million Preakness (G1), a bittersweet achievement for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert because he will not be there to saddle either horse for Saturday’s second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Medina Spirit will start from the No. 3 post as the 9-5 favorite in a 10-horse field. Concert Tour, who did not run in the Derby, is 5-2 leaving from post 10.
The draw Tuesday was pushed back a day while officials at Pimlico Race Course decided whether to allow Medina Spirit into the race after he tested positive for the anti-inflammatory betamethasone in the wake of his wire-to-wire upset in the May 1 Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs announced that if those findings are upheld, Medina Spirit will be disqualified and runner-up Mandaloun would be declared the winner.
Following the controversy, Baffert said he would not travel to Baltimore with his horses and would not be on grounds during the week or for the race to avoid being a “distraction.”
He has trusted his long-time assistant, Jimmy Barnes, with getting the horses ready for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
The Maryland Jockey Club said just before the draw that Baffert’s two entrants would be permitted to run in the Preakness “with rigorous conditions to entry along with a binding commitment from Bob Baffert to full transparency of medical and testing results that will allow for all results to be released to the public.”
Baffert consented to blood testing, monitoring and a medical record review by the MJC. Preakness officials said the horses have already been tested, and the results are expected to be available Friday. If any banned drugs are found in either horse, Baffert has agreed to scratch them out of the race.
After being informed of Medina Spirit’s positive drug test at Churchill Downs, Baffert insisted neither he nor his staff treated the colt with betamethasone, a man-made steroid that is used as a therapeutic medication in horse racing, often for joint pain.
A split-sample test will be performed to determine the validity of the findings. The result of that second test is not expected to be released for several weeks. To this point, the only time a Kentucky Derby winner was dethroned for a prohibited substance was Dancer’s Image in 1968.
Regardless, Medina Spirit will start Saturday as the overwhelming favorite. He won the Derby as a 12-1 choice, besting the field with an impressive run from start to finish.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who has been aboard Medina Spirit in the horse’s last three races, will ride him again in the Preakness.
Concert Tour won his first three races before finishing third in the Arkansas Derby on April 11. He will be ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith.
Barnes had both horses take a leisurely jog around the track Tuesday, one day after their arrival at Pimlico.
“We had a long travel day yesterday, but they all handled the trip very well,” Barnes said after the casual workout. “We’re up here early, it’s just Tuesday so I gave them a light jog day today. We’ll gallop everything tomorrow.”
Midnight Bourbon was installed behind Baffert’s pair as a 5-1 choice from the No. 5 post. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bourbon took sixth in the Kentucky Derby following a runner-up showing in the Louisiana Derby.
Until the Kentucky Derby, Midnight Bourbon had never been worse than third.
“Midnight Bourbon was very consistent coming into the Derby,” Asmussen said. “He wasn’t exactly in position to run his best race that day, by the break, traffic, different reasons.”
Crowded Trade drew the 4th post and is a 10-1 choice in his fourth career race. In his last outing, he finished third in Wood Memorial (G2).
The rest of the field: Rombauer is 12-1 from the No, 6 gate; Unbridled Honor is 15-1 from the No. 8 post; Risk Taking is 15-1 from the 9-hole; Keepmeinmind is also 15-1, from the No. 2 gate; France Go de Ina is 20-1 from the No. 7 post; and Ram will break from the inside as the longshot of the field at 30-1.
Ram, a son of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, will be saddled by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Ram’s most notable victory came in an allowance race on the Kentucky Derby card.
“He’s gotten good lately,” Lukas said. “For that reason, I thought he deserved the chance; that plus I like to come here. I like this place. This is a fun race. Even if you don’t win, it’s enjoyable.”
The 146th Preakness is run at 1 3/16 miles. A crowd of around 10,000 is expected, and the infield will be closed.
A total of 12 Preakness winners won from post 3; the top winning post in the Preakness is No. 6, which has produced 16 winners.
|1||Ram||30-1||D. Wayne Lukas||Ricardo Santana Jr.|
|2||Keepmeinmind||15-1||Robertino Diodoro||David Cohen|
|3||Medina Spirit||9-5||Bob Baffert||John Velazquez|
|4||Crowded Trade||10-1||Chad Brown||Javier Castellano|
|5||Midnight Bourbon||5-1||Steve Asmussen||Irad Ortiz|
|6||Rombauer||12-1||Michael McCarthy||Flavien Prat|
|7||France Go De Ina||20-1||Hideyuki Mori||Joel Rosario|
|8||Unbridled Honor||15-1||Todd Pletcher||Luis Saez|
|9||Risk Taking||15-1||Chad Brown||Jose Ortiz|
|10||Concert Tour||5-2||Bob Baffert||Mike Smith|
David Ginsburg was a sports writer for The Associated Press for 37 years before retiring in February. He covered all sports in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, including the Ravens, Orioles, University of Maryland and Navy, and was a fixture at Pimlico for the Preakness and other important races for more than three decades.