Medina Spirit impressed with his heart, not with his final time, in repelling Roman Centurian and Hot Rod Charlie to win a three-way photo in the $100,500, Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes Jan. 30 at Santa Anita Park.
Going to the lead from his inside post under Abel Cedillo, the 3-year-old son of Protonico set fractions of 22.89, :46.61, 1:12.36 under pressure from Wipe the Slate, dispatched that rival, and turned back Roman Centurian and Hot Rod Charlie after they looked poised to rally past him in the stretch. He scored by a neck, with runner-up Roman Centurian a nose in front of show finisher Hot Rod Charlie.
"He's a very game horse," said Cedillo. "At the quarter pole, I didn't know, but he looked around and when he saw those horses, he kept going. He didn't get tired at all. On the gallop out, he was by himself."
His winning time of 1:46.26 for 1 1/16 miles, topped by a final sixteenth in :6.92, may give bettors pause about backing him and other Lewis entrants in the next Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool Feb. 12-14. In pool 2 which closed Jan. 24, Medina Spirit was the sixth favorite among individual wagering interests at 21-1.
His clocking was the slowest in the race since Santa Anita returned the Lewis to dirt in 2011 after replacing its synthetic main track.
By comparison, Thousand Words ran 1 1/16 miles in the Lewis last year in 1:43.64 and Mucho Gusto was timed in 1:41.81 in 2019. I'll Have Another , who took the 2012 Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands, was clocked in 1:40.84 when he won the Lewis in 2012.
Several factors appeared to contribute to Medina Spirit's slow time, not the least of which was a tiring surface rated as good after heavy Friday rain. Medina Spirit also seemed to relax upon turning aside Wipe the Slate, running with one ear pricked forward. Perhaps, too, a quick pace took a toll.
Others labored even more over the racetrack. Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity winner Spielberg, another Baffert trainee, ran a nonthreatening fourth, beaten more than 11 lengths, and Wipe the Slate was gassed late, weakening to finish last of six in his first route.
Medina Spirit's victory gave trainer Bob Baffert his ninth Lewis. The Hall of Fame trainer is a six-time winner of the Kentucky Derby.
"He had every reason to give it up late in the stretch (when) those horses came to him," said Baffert. "I thought he was beat. I thought they were going to get by and he wouldn't let them by, he fought on."
Bred in Florida by Gail Rice, Medina Spirit was a $35,000 purchase by bloodstock agent Gary Young for owner Zedan Racing Stables from the Ocala Breeders' Sales 2020 July 2-Year-Olds & Horses of Racing Age sale.
Medina Spirit became the first black-type winner for both his sire and dam, the Brilliant Speed mare Mongolian Changa. He is her first foal.
The Lewis provided qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 scale toward the May 1 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserveto its top-four finishers, resulting in Medina Spirit advancing into fifth in the points standings with 14. He had earned four points when second in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita behind Derby Future Wager favorite Life Is Good.