After his connections reached an agreement with the Maryland Jockey Club to run in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes, Medina Spirit was installed as the 9-5 favorite for Saturday’s race at Pimlico in Baltimore.
After winning the Kentucky Derby on May 1, Medina Spirit trainer Bob Baffert was suspended by Churchill Downs after betamethasone, a corticosteriod, was found in the horse’s system from a postrace drug test. A split sample has been sent to an independent lab for verification. If confirmed, Medina Spirit could be disqualified, making second-place finisher Mandaloun the Derby winner.
Baffert was allowed to enter both Medina Spirit and Rebel Stakes winner Concert Tour in Saturday’s second jewel of the Triple Crown after agreeing to have his colts blood-tested and monitored during the week.
Medina Spirit drew the No. 3 post position in the 10-horse field. Concert Tour was made the 5-2 second choice in the morning line after drawing the outside No. 10 post position. Midnight Bourbon is third choice at 5-1 from the No. 5 post position. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bourbon finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby.
Crowded Trade (10-1), Rombauer (12-1), Keepmeinmind (15-1), Risk Taking (15-1), Unbridled Honor (15-1), France Go De Ina (20-1) and Ram (30-1) round out the Preakness field. Post time is set for 6:50 p.m. Saturday on NBC.
Baffert has won the Preakness seven times, most recently with Triple Crown winners Justify in 2018 and American Pharoah in 2015. He also won with Lookin At Lucky in 2010, War Emblem in 2002, Point Given in 2001, Real Quiet in 1998 and Silver Charm in 1997.
Baffert has indicated he will not be in Baltimore for Saturday’s race. “I don’t want to be a distraction,” the 68-year-old trainer said Monday.
After appearing on media outlets insisting Medina Spirit had not been given betamethasone, Baffert released a statement through his attorney, W. Craig Robertson III, on Tuesday saying that the colt had been treated with Otomax for a skin condition. Baffert said he only found out Monday that Otomax contained betamethasone.
“While we do not know definitively that this was the source of the alleged 21 picograms found in Medina Spirit’s postrace blood sample, and our investigation is continuing, I have been told by equine pharmacology experts that this could explain the test results,” Baffert said in a statement.
To enter the Preakness, Baffert agreed to certain conditions.
“In the best interest of horse racing, and the integrity of the sport, Mr. Baffert consents to blood testing, monitoring and medical record review by the Maryland Jockey Club (“MJC”) on the horse Medina Spirit, and two other horses trained by Mr. Baffert,” Robertson wrote in a letter to Alan M. Rifkin, counsel for the Maryland Jockey Club.
Baffert has also entered Beautiful Gift in Friday’s Black Eyed Susan Stakes.
Dr. Dionne Benson said at Tuesday’s draw that “there is no allowable level” of betamethasone in Maryland racing. Tests were conducted Monday and Tuesday, with results expected Friday, she said.
Concert Tour won the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 13, but he finished a disappointing third in the Arkansas Derby on April 3. He did not run in the Kentucky Derby.
Jockey John Velazquez, who has never won the Preakness, will ride Medina Spirit, as he did in the Derby. Mike Smith will ride Concert Tour. Smith has won the Preakness twice — 2018 on Justify and 1993 on Prairie Bayou.
Trained by Chad Brown and owned by Klaravich Stables, Crowded Trade finished third in the Wood Memorial on April 3 at Aqueduct. Brown and Klaravich teamed to win the 2017 Preakness with Cloud Computing. Brown also trains Risk Taking, who ran seventh in the Wood Memorial.
France Go de Ina is a Kentucky-bred based in Japan who finished sixth in the UAE Derby. If he wins the Belmont Stakes on June 5, his connections will receive a $1 million bonus offered to any horse based in Japan that wins the final jewel of the Triple Crown.
What: 146th running of the second leg of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown
Post time: 6:50 p.m. Saturday
Where: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore
Purse: $1 million
Distance: 1 3/16 miles
For: 3-year-old Thoroughbreds
Preakness Stakes field
(With post position, jockey and odds)
1. Ram, Ricardo Santana Jr. , 30-1
2. Keepmeinmind, David Cohen, 15-1
3. Medina Spirit, John Velazquez, 9-5
4. Crowded Trade, Javier Castelllano, 10-1
5. Midnight Bourbon, Irad Ortiz Jr., 5-1
6. Rombauer, Flavien Prat, 12-1
7. France Go de Ina, Joel Rosario, 20-1
8. Unbridled Honor, Luis Saez, 15-1
9. Risk Taking, Jose Ortiz, 15-1
10. Concert Tour, Mike Smith, 5-2