Zedan Racing Stables, Inc.'s MEDINA SPIRIT, in his first test against older horses, passed with flying colors as he took the field gate to wire on Saturday's $300K Win and You're In Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
It was MEDINA SPIRIT's second win in a row since the Triple Crown trail came to an end. Some questioned his soundness after he was scratched from the Pennsylvania Derby after the draw. Others doubted his ability to carry his speed against his elders. MEDINA SPIRIT answered with a five-length romp.
"I made sure I talked to Bob first. Basically I wanted the permission to do what I want," said winning jockey John Velazquez after the race. "Bob said, 'It's your job, you do what you need to do.' I was more aware of the two horses inside. Prat's horse (TIZAMAGICIAN) had a lot of speed for a mile and a quarter. I said, 'I'm going to come out running, I'm going to commit to the lead at the first turn. If he wants to go, he needs to be faster than me.' He broke well enough for me to get my position where I wanted to go, and once we got to the first turn he threw his ears up, and I knew he was going into a nice rhythm. From then on I felt really comfortable with him."
The victory should have secured MEDINA SPIRIT's spot in the Breeder's Cup Classic (G1) in November at Del Mar. But due to trainer Bob Baffert's pending eligibility to compete in this year's Breeder's Cup Championship, whether the son of PROTANICO will show up remains uncertain.
Sent off at odds of 4-5, and ridden by John Velazquez, MEDINA SPIRIT broke well and was characteristically gunned for the lead, securing it by a length in front of stablemate AZUL COAST, with TIZAMAGICIAN next in third.
They ran through opening quarters in 23.34 and 47.72, with MEDINA SPIRIT permitted to race through the backstretch virtually unpressured.
With three furlongs to go, John Velazquez asks MEDINA SPIRIT for more run and they quicken to a three length lead turning for home.
A 52-1 longshot STILETTO BOY was in hot pursuit in second, while EXPRESS TRAIN was freeing himself from traffic. TRIPOLI fired his bid four-wide as well. But as they hit the stretch, it was clear they were running for second. MEDINA SPIRIT, full of run, spurted clear and drew off to the roar and cheers of the Santa Anita Grandstand, crossing the line by five emphatic lengths.
STILETTO BOY ran on for second, EXPRESS TRAIN finished third. The final time for the one mile and one-eighth event was 1:49.67 over a Fast track.
MEDINA SPIRIT paid $4.60 to win, $4.20 to place, and $3.40 to show. He is by PROTONICO out of MONGOLIAN CHANGE by BRILLIANT SPEED. Bred by Gail Rice, MEDINA SPIRIT improves his record to 5 wins, 3 seconds and 1 third from 9 total starts, pushes his earnings to $2,525,000, and ties his top speed figure.
"I keep saying and I probably sound like a broken record, but this guy has a lot of heart," Velazquez said. "That's all he has. He's very competitive. And when the horses come to him, he gives you everything he can. That's all you can ask of a horse. He's not very big, he's not very beautiful but obviously he's all heart and you can't ask for anything else. He's danced with all the good horses and coming into today and doing it again, we got to give it to him."
Velazqeuz continued: "It's the knack of the horse, they don't give him much credit. He's running with all the good horses and keeps showing up and running these kinds of races. The way he ran today, that was impressive. maybe they will give him the credit he deserves now."
Source: Equibase, Paulick Report