Re-routed from last weekend’s Pennsylvania Derby (G1) in order to face California’s best older horses in Saturday’s $301,500 Awesome Again S. (G1) proved the right move for Medina Spirit, who buried the opposition while stamping his ticket to next month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar.
Under John Velazquez, Medina Spirit encountered little opposition for early supremacy. Maintaining a one-length lead through fractions of :23.34, :47.72, and 1:11.76, Medina Spirit kicked clear from there and drew off to win by five lengths as the 13-10 favorite.
“This little guy has a big heart. That’s all he has,” Velazquez said. “He’s very competitive, and when the horses come to him, he gives everything he can.
“He’s not very big, he’s not very beautiful, but obviously he’s all heart.”
Owned by Zedan Racing Stables and trained by Bob Baffert, Medina Spirit returned $4.60 after completing nine furlongs over a fast track in 1:49.67.
Stiletto Boy, the only other three-year-old in the field and a 54-1 outsider in the wagering, rallied to be a clear second by two lengths over Express Train. Tripoli, Tizamagician, Idol, Azul Coast, and Midcourt completed the order of finish.
Medina Spirit will be a sort of equine lightning rod ahead of the Nov. 6 Classic, where he’s expected to face fellow sophomores Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie, and formidable older foes like Knicks Go and Art Collector.
The controversy stems from the Kentucky Derby (G1) in May, in which Medina Spirit finished first by a half-length. A post-race test found he had been treated with betamethasone, a corticosteroid prohibited on race day. While the official result has yet to be adjudicated, Churchill Downs subsequently suspended Baffert from stabling or racing at the company’s properties. Horses currently trained by Baffert are unable to qualify for either the 2022 Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Oaks (G1).
In addition to the aforementioned first-past-the-post wins, Medina Spirit also captured the Robert B. Lewis (G3) in January and the Shared Belief S. in late August at Del Mar. He finished second in the Sham (G3), San Felipe (G2), and Santa Anita Derby (G1), and third in the Preakness (G1).
Bred in Florida by Gail Rice and last seen at auction selling for $35,000 as an OBS juvenile, Medina Spirit is by Protonico out of Mongolia Changa, by Brilliant Speed.
Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2)
The three-year-old Dr. Schivel maintained his undefeated record in graded stakes company by humbling older rivals in the $200,500 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2), a Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep for the Nov. 6 Sprint (G1) at Del Mar.
Although he might have proved hard to control after a rein malfunctioned soon after the start, Dr. Schivel was all business under Flavien Prat. Seizing the lead from Vertical Threat shortly before the end of the first quarter-mile, Dr. Schivel kicked clear from that foe and turned the race into a runaway from there.
Up by five lengths in mid-stretch, Dr. Schivel finished up 3 1/4 lengths to the good of Flagstaff and C Z Rocket, who were separated by a nose at the finish. Colt Fiction, Collusion Illusion, and Vertical Threat completed the order of finish.
Owned by Red Baron’s Barn, Rancho Temescal, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, and co-breeder William Branch, Dr. Schivel covered six furlongs in 1:09.44 and paid $5.60 as the 9-5 favorite.
“There’s a heckuva lot of good three-year-old sprinters out there this year,” winning trainer Mark Glatt said. “(The Breeders’ Cup Sprint) is going to be one heckuva horse race. I wouldn’t trade horses with any of them. I think we’re very confident going in, especially off of today’s performance.”
Unlike some of the outstanding three-year-olds he might face in the Sprint, like Jackie’s Warrior, Dr. Schivel has winning experience at Del Mar. Indeed, the son of Violence captured both the 2020 Del Mar Futurity (G1) and the July 31 Bing Crosby (G1) in his two prior stakes attempts. The Bing Crosby was also a Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep for the Sprint, meaning Dr. Schivel is a dual qualifier. His career mark now stands at 7-5-1-1, $536,000.
Bred in Kentucky by Branch and Arnold Hill, Dr. Schivel was produced by Lil Nugget, a Mining for Money half-sister to Grade 1 winner Ultra Blend.