Kentucky Derby update: echoes of Silver Charm as Medina Spirit holds off all-comers

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Horse Racing Medina Spirit
Silver Charm mark two? Medina Spirit (Abel Cedillo) wins the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. Photo: Benoit Photo

By Nicholas Godfrey

UPDATE: Kentucky Derby: all you need to know as Medina Spirit leaves Bob Baffert in seventh heaven

16-1 (price for the Kentucky Derby) Medina Spirit (Bob Baffert/Abel Cedillo)
Santa Anita (Jan 30): Robert B. Lewis Stakes G3 $100,000, 1m, dirt
Sire: Protonico
Owner: Zedan Racing Stables
Time: 1m46.26s
Likely target: San Felipe Stakes (Santa Anita, March 6)

Plenty to take out of this as Bob Baffert recorded his ninth victory in the race named in honour of his former client, the late Bob Lewis. Indeed, the trainer was left namechecking Silver Charm – a byword for tenacity whom he trained to win the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup for Lewis – after Medina Spirit kept all challengers at bay in a gutsy effort.

A son of the Giant’s Causeway stallion Protonico, Medina Spirit cost only $35,000 at auction. He made all but that hides the detail of a notably courageous effort as he set solid fractions (22.89s, 46.61s) on a tiring track (listed ‘good; after rain) and had enough left to score by a neck over Roman Centurian, with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Hot Rod Charlie nosed out for second in a driving finish.

Moreover, the result also paid a big compliment to the winner’s stablemate Life Is Good, who beat him four weeks ago in the Sham Stakes.

Bob Baffert (trainer): “That reminded me a little bit of Silver Charm. He had every reason to stop – this track was really tiring. When those horses came to him, I thought he was beat. I thought they were going to get by and he wouldn’t let them by, he fought on. He really is not as tired as I thought he would be. He got caught up in the speed duel. We were afraid about the one-hole and I was hoping he could just back off a little bit. Those are two good horses that he beat, so I’m really fortunate. This shows the quality of him and Life Is Good and he’s gonna get a lot out of this race.

Holy Bull: Greatest Honour guns them down

16-1 Greatest Honour (Shug McGaughey/Jose Ortiz)
Gulfstream Park (Jan 30): Holy Bull Stakes G3 $200,000, 1m½f, dirt
Sire: Tapit
Owner: Courtlandt Farms
Time: 1m43.19s
Likely target: Fountain of Youth (Gulfstream Park, Feb 27)

Shug McGaughey (trainer): “I thought we were in good position when we turned down the backside and when he was in that kind of position, I knew they were going to have a hard time with him, because he’s going to finish better than he starts.
“He was kind of a big clown and did what he wanted to do all summer. We got him ready to run at Saratoga. Sprinting wasn’t going to be his bag, but I think those two sprint races sort of helped him to learn and learn how to finish. We took him over to Aqueduct and he had a big race there and just got beat. He came here and his two races here have been very good. The distances helped too – two turns. I think the farther we go, the better.”

Swale: Drain The Clock impressive – but can he stay?

33-1 Drain The Clock (Saffie Joseph/Edgard Zayas)
Gulfstream Park (Jan 30): Swale Stakes G3 $100,000, 7f, dirt
Sire: Maclean’s Music
Owner: Slam Dunk Racing, Madaket Racing Stables LLC, Wonder Stables and Michael Nentwig
Time: 1m23.29s
Likely target: Fountain of Youth (Gulfstream Park, Feb 27)

For a horse with an unblemished record when he actually finishes the race, Drain The Clock has endured a fairly chequered career. His only ‘defeat’ in five starts came when a rein broke and he unseated his rider at Delta Downs, while he was given the go-ahead to run only days before the Swale after a bout of colic.

Not that there were any problems as he took the step into graded stakes in his stride. Sent off 11-10 favourite, he pressed the pace before taking over after a half-mile en route to a dominant 6¼-length triumph.

Given that he had won in similar fashion by 7½ lengths over 6f on January 2, his speed is not an issue, but can he stretch out beyond sprint distances? That question may well be answered next time out in the Fountain of Youth.

Saffie Joseph (trainer): “He made it easy today, but 12 days ago he colicked really bad and went to the clinic. Thank God, he got there, and he was good. To see him win like that today … he’s a good horse. Everything will be under consideration; he looks like he’ll get further.”

• Visit the Kentucky Derby website, the Gulfstream Park website and the Santa Anita website

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