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Medina Spirit a big winner for small price

by Wally Hall | May 2, 2021 at 2:33 a.m.

Bob Baffert with a 12-1 horse is almost unheard of, but that's not as unlikely as a horse that sold for $1,000 as a yearling winning the Kentucky Derby.

Fairy tales came true Saturday as Medina Spirit hustled out of the gate, took the early lead and held off hard-charging Mandaloun to win the Run for the Roses.

Baffert probably hasn't trained a horse that sold for a grand since he was working the quarterhorse circuit, but that's what made him the all-time winningest trainer in Derby history with his seventh win.

Less than two weeks ago, Baffert was at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort appealing a 15-day suspension from 2020. He won then, too, as the Arkansas Racing Commission fined him but reinstated the two winners he had on the final day of Oaklawn's season.

The suspension was for a minimal amount of a substance banned 14 days prior to a horse racing.

Medina Spirit was urged into the lead by jockey John Velazquez and immediately challenged by Soup and Sandwich who hit the wall when Mandaloun made his move.

It would be a stretch to think Medina Spirit is a true triple-crown threat, but Saturday the undersized colt had the biggest heart and returned $26.20 to win for his supporters.

Mandaloun held on for second and Hot Rod Charlie, owner by a group of high school friends in New Orleans, was third.

Medina Spirit started his career at Los Alamitos, Baffert's B-team track but moved up quickly when he won the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.

He had two wins and three places before Saturday when he earned more than $1.8 million to go along with his previous winnings of more than $315,000.

As a 2-year-old Medina Spirit was sold for $35,000.

Anyway you cut that one it was a great investment for Zedan Racing.

According to NBC analyst Randy Moss, this was the most inexperienced field in more than 120 years with an average of just 5.5 starts for the field of 19.

Moss has risen from high school phenom handicapper in Hot Springs to one of thoroughbred racing's top analysts as well as an NFL expert on the NFL Channel.

NBC does a nice job of covering horse racing, but they showed the Louisville childhood home of trainer Brad Cox so many times yours truly felt like he grew up there.

He was trying to become the first trainer from Louisville to win Derby, an interesting angle that was aired far too many times and will be again.

After an odd year in 2020, thanks to the pandemic, when the Triple Crown was all shook up and the Derby was moved from the first Saturday in May to the first Saturday in September, Saturday was a storybook day.

The virus may have affected the experience of the field, but it was Derby Fever, apparent every year, that allowed this to be a diverse field starting with Essential Quality, a regally bred colt owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who didn't attend the race after human rights activists lodged a complaint against him.

The Kentucky Racing Association ruled he could attend, but the Sheikh decided to skip.

There were other greatly bred and expensive horses, but there was also some dreamers in the group like the owner and trainer of Brooklyn Strong, a New York bred, who was purchased for $5,000.

Of course, that paled in comparison to Medina Spirit who was the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby but ran second to Rock Your World. Still he made a case for the Derby points system.

Most dreams are dashed on the first Saturday in May, but on Saturday, Cinderella danced the final dance in the winner's circle.

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