Barton-Brothers Talks Medina Spirit, Other Storylines Entering 2021 Preakness

Donna Barton-Brothers will again be a key member of the NBC Sports team for the Preakness Stakes telecast May 15. (Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing)

NBC Sports will provide comprehensive coverage of the 146th Preakness Stakes on Saturday from Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course. After being contested as the final leg of the Triple Crown last October, the Preakness returns to its customary place on the racing calendar as the middle jewel contested two weeks after the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.

The Preakness broadcast will extend from 2-5 p.m. ET on NBCSN before shifting to NBC from 5-7:30 p.m. ET. Coverage may also be streamed live on and is available on the NBC Sports app. Post time for the 1 3/16-mile contest is scheduled for 6:47 p.m. ET.

Donna Barton-Brothers will again play a key role for the network with her keen pre-race insight and her uncanny ability to capture the emotion of the moment through on-horse interviews with the winning jockey.

Barton-Brothers provided a comprehensive overview of the race during a question-and-answer session conducted by Tom Pedulla on behalf of America’s Best Racing:

PEDULLA: Does the controversy surrounding Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit and Bob Baffert, his Hall of Fame trainer, threaten to overshadow the Preakness?

BARTON-BROTHERS: Well, it’s the story right now. Normally, the story is that the second leg of the Triple Crown is happening. Now, the story is that the horse that won the Kentucky Derby had a post-race positive.

weekend TV schedule

Thursday, May 13: 3 p.m.-8:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Friday, May 14: 12:30 p.m.-3 p.m. ET on FS1; 5 p.m.-5:30 p.m. ET on FS2; 5 p.m.-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, May 15: 2 p.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m-6:30 p.m. on FS2; 2 p.m.-5 p.m. ET on NBCSN; 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m. ET on NBC; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, May 16: 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

PEDULLA: Baffert has had a series of post-race positives. Do they concern you?

BARTON-BROTHERS: They do. I’ve asked around a little bit, the other horsemen, and the general consensus is that you can’t operate within the guidelines of suggested withdrawal times given picogram measurements. ... Some of the other trainers may have adjusted the way they use allowed therapeutic medication because they don’t trust the withdrawal times when you are measuring in picograms, and he just hasn’t adjusted to this higher sensitivity of testing.

PEDULLA: How strong is the Preakness on its own merit?

BARTON-BROTHERS: I think it’s a really good race.

PEDULLA: Can Medina Spirit repeat his Derby performance?

BARTON-BROTHERS: He’s not a standout in this group and there are none. If you look at his numbers, he was pretty consistent and then he jumped up a ran a 102 (Beyer Speed Figure) in the Derby. Logic tells us that he’s not going to be able to run that kind of race back.

PEDULLA: Is his stablemate, Concert Tour, the greatest threat?

BARTON-BROTHERS: He’s definitely a threat. If he’s not going to be the favorite, he’s probably going to be the second choice. He’s probably going to take the most money as people try to figure out who the greatest threat is, but I don’t think he jumps out on paper as the horse to beat.

PEDULLA: What does it tell you about Midnight Bourbon that Steve Asmussen is bringing him back in two weeks after a sixth-place Derby finish?

Midnight Bourbon getting a bath at Pimlico. (Eclipse Sportswire)

BARTON-BROTHERS: I think he came back [from the Derby] really, really well. He’s a big, beautiful horse. I’m sure he came back with a very full tank or Steve wouldn’t be running him back in two weeks. He definitely has more to lose than to gain if he’s bringing a tired horse back. I think this horse talked Steve into going. I don’t think Steve talked the horse into going.

PEDULLA: How good is the combination of Risk Taking and Crowded Trade for trainer Chad Brown?

BARTON-BROTHERS: I think Crowded Trade is the better of the two. Risk Taking would have to run the race of his life. Crowded Trade, on the other hand, is a horse whose numbers fit with anybody in here.

PEDULLA: Were you encouraged by Keepmeinmind’s Derby performance?

BARTON-BROTHERS: Well, that horse has had such a weird campaign. His preparation going into all of his preps this year got messed up by weather and that he was coming off a layoff. I felt like he ran a better race in the Derby than he had been running and maybe he’s coming on at the right time.

PEDULLA: Do you anticipate that there will be enough pace for Rombauer to be effective?

BARTON-BROTHERS: There will be pace, yes. Medina Spirit sort of stole the Derby because I think a lot of the jockeys were like, ‘Yeah, he’s on the lead, but he can’t win,’ and kind of let him go. Nobody is going to let that happen again. But I don’t think we are going to see any sort of wicked speed duels. 

PEDULLA: What are your thoughts on the horse from Japan, France Go de Ina?

BARTON-BROTHERS: I’m happy to have a Japanese starter in the race. It always makes it a bit more exciting. He’s definitely got American pedigree, but I don’t think he has American type of speed. They put a lot of miles on them in the morning. They are definitely fit, but they kind of turn into plodders a little bit. I don’t think he has the speed he is going to need to get away from the starting gate early, and I don’t think he’s talented enough to impact the race late.

PEDULLA: May I ask you for a live longshot?

BARTON-BROTHERS: Well, if I have to pick a live longshot and Wayne Lukas has a horse in the race, you know my long history with Wayne Lukas. He’s a legend amongst us. So, if a longshot wins this race, I want it to be the ‘Coach.’ So, I’m going to say Ram.

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