About five months after the son of Protonico won the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, and about four months and three weeks since news broke that a banned race-day substance was found in Medina Spirit's system following the Run for the Roses, Medina Spirit and Baffert posted another newsworthy grade 1 win.
After sprinting to the lead shortly after the start, Medina Spirit stayed on top the rest of the way and pulled away in the stretch to capture the $301,500 Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes by five widening and convincing lengths Oct. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
"It's just a very emotional win for me," Baffert said as his voice cracked. "He's a great horse and he showed it today."
For Baffert, who was flanked by his sons after the race, the emotion of the moment was obvious. Though the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is awaiting a third and final test result before deciding whether or not to disqualify Medina Spirit in the Run for the Roses and suspend Baffert, the Awesome Again provided indisputable evidence that the 3-year-old ranks among the top horses in training.
"They don't give him much credit," winning rider John Velazquez said. "The way he won today was impressive. So maybe they'll give him the credit he deserves. I keep saying and I probably sound like a broken record, but this guy, he has a ton of heart."
As for what's next, Zedan Racing Stables' Medina Spirit figures to take advantage of the free, "Win and You're In" spot he secured for the Nov. 6 Grade 1 Longines Breeders' Cup Classic through Saturday's victory. There at Del Mar, he will face his toughest challenge against a field likely to include fellow speedsters such as Knicks Go, Hot Rod Charlie, and Art Collector and several grade 1-winning closers in the field for the 1 1/4-mile Classic.
"He's going to be really, really tough," Velazquez said about the Classic. "He's a fighter. I love him. Right now, let's go."
The win was the fifth in nine starts for Medina Spirit, who was third in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes and then returned from a 3 1/2-month break to take the Aug. 29 Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar in his prep for Saturday's debut against older horses.
Bred in Florida by Gail Rice and bought for just $35,000 from the Whitman Sales consignment at the 2020 OBS July 2-Year-Olds and Horses of Racing Age Sale, he has earned $2,525,200 and is the lone foal from the Brilliant Speed mare Mongolian Changa.
After scratching Medina Spirit out of the Sept. 25 Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby, Baffert kept him in California to face his elders Saturday and the 3-year-old handled them with ease as the 6-5 favorite.
Though the top two finishers and the betting favorite in the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic turned out for the Awesome Again, none of them factored in the finish as 54-1 longshot Stilleto Boy, who was third in the Shared Belief, was a distant second.
Up front, after beating Tizamagician to the front entering the first turn in the 1 1/8-mile Awesome Again, Medina Spirit ($4.60) cruised along with a lead of about a length through a half-mile in :47:72 and six furlongs in 1:11.79. When the field turned into the stretch, Medina Spirit was the only one motoring at top speed and turned the race into a rout.
Ahead by three lengths at the eighth pole, he extended the margin in the final furlong while completing the nine furlongs in 1:49.67.
It was the seventh Awesome Again win for Baffert.
"I'm happy for Zedan and what we have had to deal with," said Baffert, who has been suspended by Churchill Downs for the next two runnings of the Kentucky Derby and is battling the New York Racing Association in federal court over the organization's attempts to suspend him. "We stayed focused on the horses. The fans came out to see this horse and they are rooting for him. I could tell by the crowd noise. They are all pulling for him. It's an emotional win for us."
Stilleto Boy, a Shackleford gelding owned by Steve Moger and trained by Ed Moger Jr., was second by two lengths over C R K Stable's Express Train, a Union Rags colt who was the beaten favorite in the Pacific Classic.
Pacific Classic winner Tripoli was another 1 1/4 lengths back in fourth.
2021 Awesome Again S.
October 2nd, 2021
- Owner / Zedan Racing Stables
- Breeder / Gail Rice
- Owner / Steve Moger
- Breeder / John Kerber & Iveta Kerber
- Owner / C R K Stable LLC
- Breeder / Dixiana Farms LLC
- Owner / Hronis Racing LLC
- Breeder / Blue Devil Racing Stable, LLC
- Owner / MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm LLC
- Breeder / Woodford Thoroughbreds
- Owner / Calvin Nguyen
- Breeder / My Meadowview LLC
- Owner / Watson, Karl, Pegram, Michael E. and Weitman, Paul
- Breeder / SF Bloodstock, LLC