In the days leading up to the 146th running of the $1 million Preakness Stakes (G1), usracing.com is profiling the contenders. The 1 3/16-mile second leg of the Triple Crown is May 15. Profiles will be updated with post positions and odds following the draw on Monday, May 10.
By Ed McNamara
For the second straight year, Bob Baffert won the Kentucky Derby (G1) with a horse who early on wasn’t considered his best 3-year-old. John Velazquez replicated his ride on 8-1 shot Authentic last fall with 12-1 Medina Spirit, who also led throughout 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs.
Medina Spirit is a tough colt who in six races has never been out of the exacta. The $1,000 yearling already has earned more than $2 million over his $35,000 price as a 2-year-old. A rags-to-riches story for King of the World Baffert? Seems like a cosmic contradiction.
Despite losing his previous two races by a combined 12 1/4 lengths, the son of obscure sire Protonico won America’s Race by a half-length over Mandaloun. A half-length farther back was Hot Rod Charlie, a head in front of favored Essential Quality, the previously unbeaten 2-year-old champ.
“When the swarm came, I was expecting all those horses to go by him, and he just dug in and outran them all to the wire,” Baffert said. “That stretch can be brutal, and I wasn’t convinced until the last hundred yards.”
Medina Spirit gave Baffert a record-breaking seventh Derby trophy. If he repeats at Pimlico, Baffert will break a tie with R.W. Walden, who won seven Preaknesses from 1875-88. It may be the first record in sports history to stand for 133 years.
The unlikely Derby hero will face a much weaker field in Baltimore than the one in Louisville. This time he’ll be the favorite, and no one will be surprised if he gives Baffert a shot at his third Triple Crown in seven years.
“He’s in peak form right now,” he said. “You don’t have to do much with a horse who just won the Derby. He’s a very courageous colt, and when Mandaloun came to him, he wasn’t going to let him go by.
“I can’t compare him with (Triple Crown winners) American Pharoah and Justify, because their Beyers were through the roof. But he’s tough and he’s getting better.”
2021 Preakness Stakes Picks: Medina Spirit
Post position: TBD
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: John Velazquez
Owner: Zedan Racing Stables
Career record: 6-3-3-0
Career earnings: $2,175,200
Best Equibase speed figure: 110
Pedigree: Protonico-Mongolian Changa, by Brilliant Speed
Color: Dark bay
Running style: Front-runner/stalker
Notes: Baffert’s first five Derby champions won the Preakness. Authentic ran second last September to the filly Swiss Skydiver … Medina, a city in Saudi Arabia, is a major Islamic pilgrimage site. Its Green Dome rises above the tomb of the prophet Muhammad … Owner Amr F. Zedan, a Saudi businessman, met Baffert at the 2018 Dubai World Cup. Zedan bought into 2014 Derby-Preakness star California Chrome shortly before he won the 2016 Dubai World Cup. “The problem is that I first tasted the sport on top with California Chrome,” Zedan said. “” thought that would be the norm.” He just won the Derby with a 12-1 shot, so maybe that is the norm for him.