Kentucky Derby Context: Medina Spirit

April 17th, 2021 horse racing analyst James Scully attended his first Kentucky Derby in 1981. Along with a brief profile of this year’s contenders, he is providing some historical context.

Winner of the Robert B. Lewis S. (G3) in late January, Medina Spirit exits a pair of runner-up finishes in the San Felipe S. (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1).

He finished a clear second both times, and Medina Spirit will bring a 5-2-3-0 career record to Churchill Downs for six-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert.

A Florida-bred son of Protonico, Medina Spirit was sold for just $1,000 as a yearling. He again proved to be a bargain $35,000 two-year-old purchase for owner Amr Zedan. The dark bay colt left the Santa Anita Derby starting gate as the odds-on favorite, but he never made a serious impact behind Rock Your World, who controlled the tempo as lone speed.

Two-time Kentucky Derby winner John Velazquez, who won the Roses last year with the Baffert-trained Authentic, will ride Medina Spirit. The Hall of Fame jockey probably will try to establish an up-close position, just behind the early leaders, in the opening stages.

By capturing a seventh Kentucky Derby, Baffert would break a tie with Ben Jones. The Hall of Fame conditioner is the king of the Triple Crown, winning a record 16 races, and he’s won three of the last six editions of the Kentucky Derby.

Baffert’s last four winners – War Emblem, American Pharoah, Justify, and Authentic – captured their final prep race. American Pharoah and Justify won every previous start at age three.

Medina Spirit is a throwback to Baffert’s first two Kentucky Derby winners, Silver Charm and Real Quiet (1997-98).

Just like their modern counterpart, Silver Charm and Real Quiet were stakes winners. And both entered the Kentucky Derby after recording runner-up finishes in the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby.

An eventual Hall of Famer and Florida-bred son of Silver Buck, Silver Charm finished second twice to Free House before turning the tables at Churchill Downs.

Real Quiet, a Kentucky-bred Quiet American colt, was beaten a head by Artax in the San Felipe, and he recorded a non-threatening second to stablemate Indian Charlie in the Santa Anita Derby.

Silver Charm was bet down to 4-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby. Real Quiet was 8-1.

Medina Spirit likely will be double-digit odds for Baffert in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.