Most people have a reason to believe in something. Normally there will be evidence to support this backing. One Thoroughbred trainer has every reason to have one of his runners entered in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar on August 29.
Medina Spirit is one athlete that can give us all inspiration. This very modestly priced three year old has gone from “just another runner” to the perceived pinnacle of the sport as the winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby. A reported medication violation has shed some negative light on a miraculous performance, but to date there has been no revocation of his Derby win. . But as far as this Spirit is concerned, life goes on as he continues to do what a race horse loves to do.
A courageous run in the Preakness that saw this son of Protonico finish third was the last time he entered the starting gates. Working well in recent times at Del Mar, Medina Spirit is fresh and ready to get after it once again. Trainer Bob Baffert has given this courageous colt some much needed time off, but now it’s time to turn him loose.
“The Kentucky Derby really took a lot out of him”, says Baffert. “He ran such a great race that day and (jockey) Johnny (Velazquez) gave him the perfect trip, but it was very hard on him. He needed the time off, especially after running two weeks later in the Preakness.”
The Kentucky Derby win was indeed a thing of beauty from a game plan execution stand point. Understanding he had a very determined runner with a winning attitude beneath him, Johnny V gunned his colt out of the gate and made the early lead. Rolling to the top of the stretch still in front, the Spirit was all heart as he refused to be passed by four on-rushing challengers. Bob Baffert had perfectly prepared his horse to win, John Velazquez put his mount in position to be victorious, and Medina Spirit did the rest.
After running six times in the first five and a half months of the year, this grandson of Brilliant Speed is ready to dig in the dirt again. A record of two wins, three seconds and a third in those starts is a testament of how hard he tries every time out. That, along with some nice works have given the hall of fame conditioner good reason to send his Spirit back to the starting gates.
“Not every horse does well here at Del Mar”, says Baffert. “For whatever reason some horses just do not get over the track well, but Medina Spirit has taken very well to the track in his works. We think he’s ready and since the Breeders’ Cup is at Del Mar it makes sense to run him here.”
A one mile race for three-year olds, the Shared Belief is a good spot, but certainly no slam dunk for Medina Spirit. Another likely entrant will be Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World. The Spirit finished behind Rock Your World at Santa Anita that day, but more than evened the score four weeks later at Churchill Downs. The rubber match between these two left coast lightning bolts will come in this Sunday Stakes race.
Normally a guy that always brings his best, Baffert may have a little more sentiment with his Spirit because of his heart and humble beginnings.
“His original purchase price ($1000) says nothing about how good this horse really is”, says Baffert. “His determination and will to win are just incredible. He always gives everything he’s got and is a great example of a competitor. We are excited to see him do what he loves to do again.”
Velazquez will be getting a leg up on Medina Spirit in the Shared Belief, which should be a major plus. Five others will oppose the Spirit with Rock Your World lining up beside him in the gates. Slated as race 9 with an expected post time of 6 pm Pacific, the Shared Belief promises to be very entertaining.