PREAKNESS STAKES SEES RETURN OF MEDINA SPIRIT
Last Sunday a bombshell was dropped on World Horse Racing – and not merely on the American Turf – when trainer Bob Baffert revealed that his Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit (by Protonico) had tested positive for betamethasone, a prohibited substance. Although the amount sounds small – 21 picograms/ml. – it was enough to breach the relevant rules. At this time, the result of the split sample is awaited, on receipt of which the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will take a call.
Meanwhile, the question arose as to whether Medina Spirit could meet with his next engagement, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse, Baltimore, Maryland, under the aegis of the Maryland Jockey Club. Track owner 1/ST RACING, the MJC and Bob Baffert’s attorneys came to an agreement that will allow the game colt to participate. Also allowed to run is Baffert’s other runner Concert Tour (by Street Sense). Baffert has consented to allow for “rigorous testing and monitoring” of his runners, whatever that means. One clue available is the announcement that pre-race testing will be carried out.
Baffert has promised to be transparent and has blamed the detection of betamethasone on a topical ointment used to treat dermatitis. Not surprisingly, the racing press has called upon the silver-haired trainer to share the detailed medical records of his wards with the public, along with details of the prescribing veterinarian, the actual prescription and the supplier of the ointment.
A pertinent comparison has been drawn by the media with other trainers: both Christophe Clement and Graham Motion have just a single minor medical infraction apiece on their career-long records, totalling >24,000 starts between the pair. Bob Baffert has at least thirty violations from about 13,000 runners.
Anyway, one has to wait and see what happens in the next few weeks…..
|PP||Horse Name||Expected Odds||Jockey||Trainer|
|1||Ram||30/1||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||D. Wayne Lukas|
|2||Keepmeinmind||15/1||David Cohen||Robertino Diodoro|
|3||Medina Spirit||9/5||John Velazquez||Bob Baffert|
|4||Crowded Trade||10/1||Javier Castellano||Chad Brown|
|5||Midnight Bourbon||5/1||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||Steve Asmussen|
|6||Rombauer||12/1||Flavien Prat||Michael McCarthy|
|7||France Go De Ina||20/1||Joel Rosario||Hideyuki Mori|
|8||Unbridled Honor||6/1||Luis Saez||Todd Pletcher|
|9||Risk Taking||8/1||Jose Ortiz||Chad Brown|
|10||Concert Tour||5/2||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert|
In the USA, Medina Spirit is the pre-race favourite, while in International markets, Concert Tour, with Mike Smith on board, is marginally preferred. Baffert has won this race seven times and looks likely to add an eighth as his pair looks superior on form. True, Medina Spirit may not be allowed to have his own way up front on this occasion. Still, he appears to be a game sort who will probably make all the running and then try to resist the efforts of rivals to pass him. To this end, the vigorous riding of Johnny Velazquez will surely help.
The only blip on the record of Concert Tour was a lacklustre effort in the Arkansas Derby where he was just nosed out of the runner-up spot and finished third. At this point, he can be forgiven one bad run – perhaps he had an off day. Having been drawn wide, h will probably be well-up on the outside before making his challenge under new pilot Smith, replacing Joel Rosario, who had the mount on all the colt’s previous four starts.
With Smith having changed his allegiance, trainer Steve Asmussen has gone back to an old ally, Irad Ortiz, Jr., to partner his ward, Midnight Bourbon (by Tiznow), who was a troubled sixth in the Kentucky Derby, beaten about 8 lengths. The native of Puerto Rico is leading the American jockeys’ lists by a wide margin (167 wins so far in 2021 compared to his nearest pursuer at 107). However, he has yet to win this race. It may be recalled that the trainer and jockey had teamed up to annex the Belmont Stakes of 2016 with Creator (by Tapit).
With a slightly larger slice of luck, the name of Luis Saez might have been inscribed twice in the scroll of honour for the Kentucky Derby – first on Maximum Security, who was disqualified after triumphing, and then on Essential Quality, who finished about a length fourth this year, having covered 68 feet more than the actual winner. Saez gets a shot at Classic glory here astride Unbridled Honor (by Honor Code), winner of a maiden and runner-up in the Lexington Stakes, for trainer Todd Pletcher, who has yet to add the Preakness Stakes to his list of scalps, and whose slate seems likely to remain blank after this year’s renewal has been run.
Klaravich Stables, Inc. and trainer Chad Brown field a pair of contenders in Crowded Trade (by More Than Ready) and Risk Taking (by Medaglia d’Oro). The former, with Javier Castellano up, hasn’t raced outside the narrow confines of Aqueduct, in New York, where he finished third in the Wood Memorial Stakes, form which seems inadequate for his task in Baltimore. That said, he has run only thrice and could improve. The owner-trainer-jockey combination had previously scored with Cloud Computing in the 2017 renewal of this race. Risk Taking has a bit more experience than his stablemate but was even further back in the same Wood Memorial. Jose Ortiz will be at the controls on the latter.
On a line through Essential Quality, neither Rombauer (by Twirling Candy), nor Keepmeinmind (by Laoban) should get a look in, but these are young horses and upsets have been known to occur. Though few would be betting on it!
Japan sends an unusual runner, one that is not an advertisement for its sensational breeding industry but rather an American-bred $100,000 yearling trained in the “Land of the Rising Sun”. This is the oddly-named France Go De Ina (by Will Take Charge), beaten ten lengths in the UAE Derby at Meydan in Dubai in March. Many are scratching their heads as to what exactly he is doing here. Surely his connections know something that the rest of us don’t? That long-term planning has gone into this venture seems clear from the fact that the same rider who rode him in Dubai is aboard here, namely Joel Rosario.
The race is at 6:50 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, May 15th (4:20 a.m. Sunday, May 16th in India).