Medina Spirit
SireProtonico
GrandsireGiant's Causeway
DamMongolian Changa
DamsireBrilliant Speed
SexColt
FoaledApril 5, 2018[1]
CountryUnited States
ColorDark bay
BreederGail Rice
OwnerZedan Racing Stables (Amr Zedan)
TrainerBob 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 consensus odds at 12–1.[3]

Background

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][4][5][6]

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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[6]

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.[6] "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.[8]

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.[9]

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."[10][11]

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.[12] "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."[13]

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.[14] After the race, Baffert had minor throat surgery performed on the colt to improve his breathing.[15]

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.[16] "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."[17]

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).[18] Medina Spirit was largely overlooked at odds of 12-1.[19]

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.[15][19]

Zedan Racing Stables won the Derby only five years after its founding.[15] 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."[20]

Medina Spirit earned $1,860,000 by winning the race.[19]

Preakness Stakes

Medina Spirit's next scheduled start is in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg in United States Thoroughbred racing's triple crown on May 15, 2021. Early odds listed Essential Quality as the favorite at 5–2 and Medina Spirit at 7–2.[21]

Statistics

Date Age Distance Race Grade Track Odds Field Finish Winning Time Winning
(Losing)
Margin
Jockey Ref
Dec 11, 2020 2 5+12 furlongs Maiden Special Weight Los Alamitos 3.40 6 1 1:02.93 3 lengths Abel Cedillo [9]
Jan 2, 2021 3 1 mile Sham Stakes III Santa Anita 9.40 5 2 1:36.63 (34 lengths) Abel Cedillo [11]
Jan 30, 2021 3 1+116 miles Robert B. Lewis Stakes III Santa Anita 1.00* 6 1 1:36.63 Neck Abel Cedillo [12]
Mar 6, 2021 3 1+116 miles San Felipe Stakes II Santa Anita 3.30 7 2 1:42.18 (8 lengths) John Velazquez [14]
Apr 3, 2021 3 1+18 miles Santa Anita Derby I Santa Anita 0.90* 9 2 1:49.17 (4+14 lengths) John Velazquez [16]
May 1, 2021 3 1+14 miles Kentucky Derby I Churchill Downs 12.10 19 1 2:01.02 12 length John Velazquez [19]

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

Pedigree

Pedigree of Medina Spirit, dark bay colt, foaled April 5, 2018[1]
Sire
Protonico
Giant's Causeway Storm Cat Storm Bird
Terlingua
Mariah's Storm Rahy
Immense
Alpha Spirit A.P. Indy Seattle Slew
Weekend Surprise
Wild Spirit (CHI) Hussonet
Wild Princess
Dam
Mongolian Changa
Brilliant Speed Dynaformer Roberto
Andover Way
Speed Succeeds Gone West
Dajin
Bridled Unbridled Fappiano
Gana Facil
Holy Niner Holy Bull
Scoop the Gold (family 2-n)
  1. ^ a b "Pedigree of Medina Spirit". Equineline. Retrieved May 1, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Profile of Medina Spirit". Equibase. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  3. ^ a b King, Byron. "Medina Spirit gives Baffert a record seventh Derby win". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  4. ^ "Stallion profile - Protonico". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  5. ^ "Giant's Causeway (horse)". American Classic Pedigrees. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d "Tales from the Crib: Medina Spirit". www.kentuckyderby.com. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  7. ^ "Bargain Buy Medina Spirit Pays Off for Zedan". BloodHorse.com. April 2, 2021. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Thoroughbred Bloodlines - Alexander Mare - Family 2-n". www.bloodlines.net. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  9. ^ a b "Chart for December 11, 2020 at Los Alamitos - Race 6". equibase.com. Retrieved May 1, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "Life Is Good, Medina Spirit have Baffert thinking Kentucky Derby". www.drf.com. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Chart of the Sham Stakes". Equibase. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  12. ^ a b "Chart of the Robert B. Lewis". Equibase. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  13. ^ "Medina Spirit narrowly lands Robert B. Lewis". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  14. ^ a b "Chart of the San Felipe Stakes". Equibase. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  15. ^ a b c "$1,000 Medina Spirit Gives Baffert A Record Seventh Set Of Roses; Velazquez Rides Oaks-Derby Double". Paulick Report. May 1, 2021. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  16. ^ a b "Chart of the Santa Anita Derby". Equibase. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  17. ^ Reilly, Kellie (April 4, 2021). "Rock Your World lives up to his name in Santa Anita Derby". Brisnet. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  18. ^ "Derby Dozen". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  19. ^ a b c d "Chart of the Kentucky Derby". Equibase. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  20. ^ Russell, Shannon. "Five years after founding Zedan Racing Stables, Amr Zedan's horse wins 2021 Kentucky Derby". The Courier-Journal.
  21. ^ https://www.cbssports.com/general/news/2021-preakness-stakes-odds-medina-spirit-predictions-expert-who-nailed-9-winners-releases-picks/