Medina Spirit

Last updated

Medina Spirit
Grandsire Giant's Causeway
DamMongolian Changa
DamsireBrilliant Speed
Sex Colt
FoaledApril 5, 2018 [1]
Country United States
ColorDark bay
BreederGail Rice
OwnerZedan Racing Stables (Amr Zedan)
Trainer Bob Baffert
Record6: 3–3–0
Earnings$2,175,200 [2]
Major wins
Robert B. Lewis Stakes (2021)

American Triple Crown wins:
Kentucky Derby (2021)

Medina Spirit (foaled April 5, 2018) is an American Thoroughbred racehorse who won the 2021 Kentucky Derby. He qualified for the race by winning the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and finishing second in both the San Felipe Stakes and Santa Anita Derby.


He was ridden by jockey John Velazquez in his fourth Derby triumph and trained by Bob Baffert in his record seventh Derby victory. The horse was a long shot with post-time odds of 12–1. [3]

Medina Spirit's Derby win could be called into question after the horse tested positive for the anti-inflammatory steroid betamethasone after the race. [4] [5]


Medina Spirit is a dark bay colt bred in Florida by Gail Rice. He is from the first crop of multiple graded stakes winner Protonico, who stands at Castleton Farm. Protonico is by Giant's Causeway, who was a multiple Group I winner in Europe, nicknamed the Iron Horse. Giant's Causeway was later a leading sire in North America. Medina Spirit was the first foal produced by Mongolian Changa, a daughter of Brilliant Speed who won one of six starts. [2] [6] [7] [8]

Medina Spirit was foaled on April 5, 2018, but his dam was at first unable to produce milk for him. Rice used some colostrum that had been saved from another mare, providing the foal with crucial nutrients and antibodies. Mongolian Changa soon began to nurse normally and the colt developed into a "standout", known for his competitive spirit. [8]

Medina Spirit attracted little attention when he was entered in the Ocala Breeders Sale of January 2019. He was sold for the minimum $1,000 (meaning he only received a single bid) to Christy Whitman, who later resold the colt to bloodstock agent Gary Young who purchased him for $35,000 for Amr Zedan at the Ocala July Two-Year-Old Sale. [9] Zedan had been interested in the colt in part because one of his friends, Oussama Aboughazale, had owned Protonico. Zedan named the horse for Medina, the second holiest city in Islam after Mecca and also the capital of the Medina Province of Saudi Arabia. Medina is the hometown of both Zedan and Aboughazale. [8]

Medina Spirit was sent into training with Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, initially under assistant Mike Marlow. Medina Spirit kept surprising his connections by outworking the more expensive colts that Baffert's stable is known to attract. [8] "He reminded me of Silver Charm", said Baffert, referring to his first Derby winner from 1997. "He doesn't know how much he cost." [3]

Medina Spirit traces to the thoroughbred family numbered 2-n, and is its first Kentucky Derby winner. [10]

Racing career

2020: Two-year-old season

In his only race as a two-year-old, Medina Spirit won his debut in a maiden special weight race over 5+12 furlongs at Los Alamitos Race Course on December 11, 2020. He vied for the early lead with Sensemaker, running the first quarter-mile in 22.20. He took the lead turning for home and kicked clear to win by three lengths. [11]

2021: Three-year-old season

Medina Spirit made his first start as a three-year-old in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park on January 2, 2021. The heavy favorite was Life Is Good, another Baffert trainee who was also coming off a maiden race win. Life Is Good went to the early lead and set sensible fractions while maintaining an advantage of three to four lengths down the backstretch and into the stretch. Medina Spirit, who had raced in second throughout, made a late run to close to within three-quarters of a length, with the third-place finisher 13 lengths further back. "They've got four months to improve", said Baffert, referring to the upcoming Kentucky Derby. "We need to let them mature and keep them healthy." [12] [13]

His next start was in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on January 30, where he went off as the even money favorite in a field of six. He went to the early lead and turned into the stretch with a one length lead. Hot Rod Charlie then started to inch closer, closing to within half a length in midstretch. From further back, Roman Centurion also started to close ground rapidly. In a blanket finish, Medina Spirit hung on to win by a neck over Roman Centurion, with Hot Rod Charlie a nose behind in third. [14] "He had every reason to give it up late in the stretch (when) those horses came to him", Baffert said. "I thought he was beat. I thought they were going to get by and he wouldn't let them by." [15]

Medina Spirit made his next start in the San Felipe Stakes on March 6. He was the second betting choice to Life Is Good, who went to the early lead and was never challenged, winning by eight lengths over Medina Spirit, with Dream Shake third. [16] After the race, Baffert had minor throat surgery performed on the colt to improve his breathing. [17]

He came second again in his final Derby prep, the Santa Anita Derby on April 3. Rock Your World, in his first start on the dirt, unexpectedly went to the early lead and pulled away in the stretch over Medina Spirit with Dream Shake again in third. [18] "The horse ran well," said jockey John Velazquez, “but the winner took the lead on a fast track and kept running. My horse kept coming and kept coming but couldn’t catch up." [19]

Kentucky Derby

The 2021 Kentucky Derby, held on May 1 at Churchill Downs, attracted a deep field of 19. The favorite was the undefeated champion Essential Quality, who had won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Blue Grass Stakes. Other highly regarded contenders included Rock Your World (Santa Anita Derby), Known Agenda (Florida Derby), Hot Rod Charlie (Louisiana Derby), and Mandaloun (Risen Star Stakes). [20] Medina Spirit was largely overlooked at odds of 12–1. [21]

Velazquez decided to change tactics for the race after having rated the colt in the Santa Anita Derby. Instead, he sent Medina Spirit to the early lead, running the first quarter-mile in :23.09. They avoided a potential pace duel when Known Agenda broke poorly on the rail and Rock Your World got bumped at the start. Instead, Soup and Sandwich pressed the pace for the first three-quarters, then fell back and eventually finished last. Mandaloun closed to within a head as the field turned for home, with Hot Rod Charlie close behind. Medina Spirit and Mandaloun battled down the stretch with Medina Spirit pulling clear in the final strides to win by half a length. Hot Rod Charlie was another half length back in third and Essential Quality a further head behind in fourth. [17] [21]

Zedan Racing Stables won the Derby only five years after its founding. [17] Zedan said, "Naturally it was the Kentucky Derby, right? That's the show. That's what Bob said — that's the show, that's why we are here. I feel blessed, honored and humbled. I've rehearsed this speech in the shower and on the treadmill. Never thought I was going to do it, but here I am." [22] Medina Spirit earned $1,860,000 by winning the race. [21]

One week after the Kentucky Derby was run, Baffert's assistant Jimmy Barnes was informed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that post-race testing on Medina Spirit showed 21pg/mL of the anti-inflammatory steroid betamethasone. [23] In Kentucky, betamethasone is classified as a Class C drug that is permitted for therapeutic use in horses, but requires a 14-day withdrawal time. Any amount of the drug detected in post-race testing is a violation and could result in a disqualification. [24] In a news conference on May 9, Baffert said that Medina Spirit was never administered betamethasone. In addition to a request for a split drug sample, Baffert also requested an independent DNA and follicle test. He told reporters that he would fight the issue "...tooth and nail because I owe it to the horse, I owe it to the owner, and I owe it to our industry." [4] [5] Shortly thereafter, Churchill Downs suspended Baffert from entering any horses at their racetrack pending the outcome of the commission's investigation. [25] Baffert also added that he felt that the horse was a victim of "cancel culture". [26] At one point, Baffert theorized that, prior to the race, Medina Spirit might have eaten hay on which a groom who had taken cough medication had urinated. [27]

On May 11, Baffert released a statement through his attorney saying that veterinarians treated Medina Spirit with Onomax, an antifungal ointment, from after the horse's second-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby until the day before the Kentucky Derby. Baffert claimed that Onomax was used to treat dermatitis on the horse's hind end, and that he did not realize the ointment had betamethasone until after the positive test was reported. Baffert said he never attempted to "game the system or get an unfair advantage", and quoted pharmacologists who told him that "21 picograms of betamethasone would have no effect on the outcome of the race." [28]

Medina Spirit was ranked first in the NTRA 3-year-old poll, a weekly ranking of thoroughbreds by horse racing columnists and journalists, after his win in the Kentucky Derby. [29] Following the report of the failed drug test, Medina Spirit dropped to fourth place in the same poll. [30]

Preakness Stakes

Medina Spirit's next scheduled start is in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg in the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course on May 15, 2021. Medina Spirit drew post position 3 and was installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite. [31]

Prior to the draw for the race, Baffert announced he would not travel to the Preakness so as to not be a distraction, adding that he would be represented at Pimlico by his assistant Jimmy Barnes. [32] [33] Baffert also agreed to additional testing protocols for Medina Spirit in the days leading up to the race. [31]


DateAgeDistanceRaceGradeTrackOddsFieldFinishWinning TimeWinning
Dec 11, 20202Maiden Special Weight Los Alamitos 3.40611:02.93 Abel Cedillo [11]
Jan 2, 20213 Sham Stakes Santa Anita 9.40521:36.63 Abel Cedillo [13]
Jan 30, 20213 Robert B. Lewis Stakes Santa Anita1.00*611:36.63 Abel Cedillo [14]
Mar 6, 20213 San Felipe Stakes Santa Anita3.30721:42.18 John Velazquez [16]
Apr 3, 20213 Santa Anita Derby Santa Anita0.90*921:49.17 John Velazquez [18]
May 1, 20213 Kentucky Derby Churchill Downs12.101912:01.02 John Velazquez [21]

An asterisk after the odds means Medina Spirit was the post-time favorite.


Pedigree of Medina Spirit, dark bay colt, foaled April 5, 2018 [1]
Giant's Causeway Storm Cat Storm Bird
Mariah's Storm Rahy
Alpha Spirit A.P. Indy Seattle Slew
Weekend Surprise
Wild Spirit (CHI)Hussonet
Wild Princess
Mongolian Changa
Brilliant Speed Dynaformer Roberto
Andover Way
Speed Succeeds Gone West
Bridled Unbridled Fappiano
Gana Facil
Holy Niner Holy Bull
Scoop the Gold (family 2-n) [10]

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