If there were any questions about the quality of Medina Spirit, they were answered in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar on August 29.
A determined runner with lots of courage, this Bob Baffert trained colt came into the Shared Belief with something to prove. Following his picture perfect execution in taking the Kentucky Derby field gate to wire back in May, this son of Protonico has been saddled with naysayers. Following the report of a medication violation, the public perception has been clouded with doubt as to how genuine his Derby win really is.
The Shared Belief came up tough as a salty field of six faced off for this one mile drive over the Del Mar dirt. Speedy sensation Rock Your World was considered the main competition as he had defeated the Spirit in the Santa Anita Derby and much like Medina loves to be on the front end when the gates open. Make no mistake, Baffert thought long and hard about starting his prized three-year old here, but in the end it made sense as he had Belief in this Spirit.
Hall of fame rider John Velazquez flew in from New York to ride Medina Spirit as he had piloted the Spirit to Kentucky Derby immortality. Living up to his advanced billing, Johnny V once again made magic in the irons. Hustling the Spirit beneath him out of the gates he put Medina on the lead and refused to allow any other to pass early. After rolling through a brisk opening quarter mile (22.52) Velazquez was able to settle his thunder into a comfortable stride on the lead. Understanding the importance of making the others chase, controlling the race was the key, same as that other run in Kentucky.
As a tightly bunched group turned for home at the Seaside Oval, we found out this Spirit is alive and well. Confronted by Rock Your World, The Great One, and on-rushing Stilleto Boy, Baffert’s charge exuded the will to win of a true champion. Digging in with determination, he lengthened his stride and left the others digesting the Del Mar dirt. Winning by a widening length and a quarter, Medina Spirit covered the one mile distance in 1:37.29.
“It’s a bit of a relief now that he’s back in the winner’s circle”, says Bob Baffert. “He’s a for real race horse that proved himself again in a tough race. Johnny (Velazquez) is certainly one of the all-time greats and he did what he does, ride a fantastic race.”
The Shared Belief marked the third win for Medina Spirit this year and was his fourth overall in eight career starts. Never having finished worse than third, the Zedan Racing Stables owned colt has won over $2.3 million on the track. Where the Spirit runs next is to be determined.