Everything Went as Planned for Medina Spirit in Derby
Crowded Trade Following Cloud Computing’s Example
BALTIMORE – Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen confirmed Thursday morning that Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon will run in the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course May 15.
Asmussen, via text from Texas, also confirmed that Irad Ortiz Jr., the defending three-time Eclipse Award champion, will ride the son of Tiznow in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Winchell Thoroughbreds is seeking its first victory in a Triple Crown race in the family’s many decades in horse racing, while Asmussen won the Preakness in 2007 with two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and two years later with the filly and Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. Winchell Thoroughbreds did finish third with Tenfold, just three-quarters of a length behind eventual Triple Crown hero Justify in the foggy 2018 Preakness. Tenfold went on to win the 2019 Pimlico Special (G3).
Midnight Bourbon closed from well back to finish sixth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) after breaking slowly and taking him out of his up-close running style.
“We didn’t think he got the opportunity that he deserved after he missed the break and his back end went out from underneath him,” said David Fiske, the longtime racing and bloodstock manager for the late Verne Winchell and subsequently for Verne’s son Ron Winchell. “He got jostled around by the horses on either side of him, then lost some ground. He was pretty wide on the second turn; I think eventually he ran 52 or 56 feet farther than the winner. So that would have put him a little closer. And speed seemed to be lethal on Saturday. There weren’t a whole lot of horses that were closing on the front-runners. Then the fact that it took two handlers to get him back to the barn to give him a bath, it didn’t seem to take that much out of him. So we thought we’d give it a try.”
Midnight Bourbon visited Churchill Downs’ starting gate for routine schooling Thursday, followed by a controlled gallop.
“The horse is doing great,” said Scott Blasi, the assistant trainer who oversees Asmussen’s Churchill Downs operation. “I don’t think he did a lot of running early (in the Derby), so he seems to have come out of the race pretty fresh.”
Everything Went as Planned for Medina Spirit
While Bob Baffert has developed a very successful program for his Triple Crown series horses, the Hall of Fame trainer and his team are always making adjustments based on the way his Kentucky Derby (G1) horses look and act in the hours and days after the taxing 1 ¼-mile race. Baffert, a record seven-time winner of the Derby, said this week that some of his horses have looked like they need to lie down for four days and others show that they want to resume training quickly.
Following a few days of walking, Zedan Racing Stables’ Medina Spirit returned to the track at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning for a one-mile jog to begin preparations for a the Preakness Stakes (G1) May 15 at Pimlico Race Course. Baffert has said that the son of Protonico came out of his half-length victory in the Derby bright-eyed, in good condition and eating well.
“We just like to give them plenty of time,” Baffert said. “He was just so fit and ready. He ran hard. He ran fast. With two weeks you don’t need to do a whole lot.”
Medina Spirit resumed his typical morning gallop schedule Thursday. Baffert said the colt will not have a timed work between the Derby and the Preakness, but will have “a spirited gallop” this weekend before heading to Pimlico for the 146th Preakness.
In the Derby, Medina Spirit broke well from the gate under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, quickly assumed the lead and withstood every challenge. His victory was another chapter in a rags-to-riches story of a horse who sold for $1,000 as a yearling and was purchased by Amr Zedan’s fledgling stable for a mere $35,000 in July 2020. By design, all of his races prior to the Derby were in California, where Baffert is based.
“He just got out there and he didn’t get tired. He fended them all off. He was ready for it,” Baffert said. “I love it when everything works out. He was primed for it. That’s why I didn’t ship him to run anywhere, because he’s a lighter-framed horse and I wanted to keep the weight on him. The owner, he didn’t really care about shipping somewhere and getting a Grade 1. He told me that he wanted that horse to be at his best in the Kentucky Derby and that’s what we did.”
Medina Spirit will be accompanied by stablemate Concert Tour, Gary and Mary West’s third-place Arkansas Derby (G1) finisher, to Pimlico for the Preakness. Both colts stood in Churchill Downs’ starting gate in the mile chute before galloping about 1 1/4 miles under Humberto Gomez Thursday morning.
“We had an easy day today,” said assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes.
Crowded Trade Following Cloud Computing’s Example
There are at least a half-dozen similarities between Cloud Computing, trainer Chad Brown’s 2017 Preakness Stakes (G1) winner, and Crowded Trade, his candidate for this year’s Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown May 15 at Pimlico Race Course.
– Three career races leading into the Preakness.
– Both won their six-furlong debuts at Aqueduct.
– Both finished second in the one-mile Gotham (G3).
– Both ended up third in the Wood Memorial (G2).
– Both have Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables as an owner. Klaravich owns Crowded Trade and was the co-owner with William Lawrence of Cloud Computing.
– Javier Castellano had the Preakness mount on Cloud Computing and is scheduled to be up on Crowded Trade.
“When you look at the two horses the only difference is that at this stage of their development I was more certain that Cloud Computing could get the distance than Crowded Trade,” Brown said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if this horse was able to do it, as well.”
Crowded Trade is scheduled to work this weekend, following which Brown will decide if he is up to the task in the Preakness.
While Crowded Trade was able to overcome a slow break to win his maiden race, he could not completely repeat that move in the Wood after getting away eighth in the nine-horse field.
“It didn’t help and it may have cost him the race,” Brown said. “Hopefully he breaks cleaner this time.”
Preakness Notes: Cypress Creek Equine, Arnold Bennewith and Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Keepmeinmind, who rallied from last to finish seventh in the Kentucky Derby, jogged two miles at Churchill Downs for the second day in a row, said Sean Williams, who oversees trainer Robertino Diodoro’s Churchill Downs operation. Keepmeinmind is likely for the Preakness as long as he continues to bounce out of the Derby well.
“I was very happy with him this morning,” Williams said. “He’s back to playing on the racetrack. He’ll go back to galloping tomorrow.”
Whisper Hill Farm LLC’s Unbridled Honor, John and Diane Fradkin’s Rombauer and Yuji Inaida’s France Go de Ina are also being pointed to the Preakness.
Trainer Brad Cox reported Thursday that Juddmonte Farms’ Kentucky Derby runner-up Mandaloun and Shortleaf Stable’s Caddo River will not run in the Preakness.