June 7, 2023

Medina Spirit, Rock Your World clash in Shared Belief

Medina Spirit at Churchill Downs
Medina Spirit pictured at Churchill Downs (Coady Photography)

Shared Belief S. – Race 9 (9 p.m. ET)

As Medina Spirit awaits the adjudication of his first-past-the-post result in the Kentucky Derby (G1), the Bob Baffert trainee resumes his campaign in Sunday’s $100,000 Shared Belief S. at Del Mar. He’ll renewal rivalry with Rock Your World, who’s on a retrieval mission of a different kind following double-digit losses in the Derby and Belmont (G1).

Medina Spirit has traded decisions with Rock Your World. Their first match-up came in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), where the turf-to-dirt Rock Your World upstaged Medina Spirit with a front-running coup. Then came the comprehensive reversal at Churchill Downs. Medina Spirit secured the lead and kept going. Rock Your World was effectively eliminated once he broke a beat slow and got pinballed, and the hitherto unbeaten colt trudged home 17th.

The duo went their separate ways in the remaining jewels of the Triple Crown. After the bombshell news of his testing positive for betamethasone post-Derby, Medina Spirit advanced to the Preakness (G1). More pace pressure, and the two-week turnaround from a hard race, combined to make his task tougher at Pimlico, and he tired to third. Rock Your World freshened up hoping for a rebound in the Belmont. Forcing Hot Rod Charlie through a torrid pace did him no favors, though, and he gave way to a distant sixth behind Essential Quality.

Baffert was in no rush to get Medina Spirit back in action after the Preakness. Although the July 17 Haskell (G1) was at one point on the radar, the son of Protonico worked only once in mid-June, and the Monmouth feature was soon ruled out. Medina Spirit has been a regular presence on the worktab since late July. His five-furlong bullet in :58.60 on Aug. 23 convinced Baffert to supplement for the Shared Belief.

“He worked a little fast, but he came out of it good,” Baffert told Del Mar publicity. “He’s going to need the race, coming off a layoff, and he’s got to go a mile. But if I can run him here that will set him up to go on to the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) (Sept. 25 at Parx).”

Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez will be in town to maintain his partnership with Medina Spirit. Drawn in post 2, he’s just to the inside of Rock Your World in post 3. Interestingly, Rock Your World reunites with Umberto Rispoli for the first time since the Santa Anita Derby.

Trainer John Sadler was thinking of putting Rock Your World back on turf for the Sept. 4 Del Mar Derby (G2), but recently inclined toward giving the Candy Ride colt another chance on dirt. Last Saturday’s Pacific Classic (G1) emerged as a possibility versus elders, until the Shared Belief shaped up as the more straightforward option in his own age group. Older stablemate Tripoli took care of business in the Pacific Classic.  

Aside from their intriguing head-to-head rivalry, Medina Spirit and Rock Your World will be auditioning for potential Breeders’ Cup bids back at Del Mar in November. Neither has raced at the seaside track before, making the Shared Belief a trial run over the surface.  

Four others signed on for the one-mile Shared Belief. Doug O’Neill entered a pair of Nyquist colts – Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) near-misser The Great One, last seen finishing a remote seventh in the Santa Anita Derby, and recent allowance winner Team Merchants, who makes his stakes and two-turn debut. Leading rider Flavien Prat guides The Great One, while Mario Gutierrez stays aboard Team Merchants. Iowa Derby upsetter Stilleto Boy, fifth in the La Jolla H. (G3) in his turf debut for new connections, returns to dirt and takes blinkers off for Ed Moger. The Steve Knapp-trained Willy the Cobbler takes a class hike from a starter allowance score at this track and trip.