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ARCADIA, CA – Zedan Racing Stables’ Medina Spirit took the field on a gate to wire trek in Saturday’s $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
The Awesome Again is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Medina Spirit receiving an automatic berth in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar this November.
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Medina Spirit broke from post 5 under John Velazquez as the 6/5 favorite in the field of eight males and went straight to the lead, clearing his inside rivals and holding sole command into the clubhouse turn.
With Bob Baffert stablemate Azul Coast racing three-wide outside Medina and a sandwiched Tizamagician, Medina Spirit ticked off opening fractions of :23.34, :47.72, and 1:11.76.
Azul Coast faded heading into the far turn as Tizamagician and jockey Flavien Prat took first run, but Medina Spirit found a new gear at the top of the stretch and drew off strongly from his competition.
The embattled Kentucky Derby (G1) winner crossed 5 lengths clear while completing the 1 1/8-mile fast dirt route in 1:49.67.
“I made sure I talked to Bob first, basically I wanted the permission to do what I want,” said Velazquez. “Bob said, ‘It’s your job, you do what you need to do.’ I was more aware of the two horses inside. Prat’s horse had a lot of speed for a mile and 1/4. I said, ‘I’m going to come out running, I’m going to commit to the lead at the first turn. If he wants to go, he needs to be faster than me.’ (Medina Spirit) broke well enough for me to get my position where I wanted to go, and once we got to the first turn, he threw his ears up, and I knew he was going into a nice rhythm. From then on, I felt really comfortable with him.”
Stilleto Boy, at 54/1 the longest shot on the board, rallied late for second by 2 lengths over Express Train. Tripoli and Tizamagician, the 1-2 finishers from Pacific Classic Stakes (G1), took fourth and fifth, respectively.
Idol, Azul Coast, and Midcourt completed the order of finish.
Medina Spirit’s win was his second straight following the 1-mile Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar and improved his overall record to 9-5-3-1. The 3-year-old Florida-bred Protonico colt, purchased for $35,000 as a juvenile, has now earned $2,525,200.
“I keep saying, and I probably sound like a broken record, but this guy, he has a lot of heart,” Velazquez said. “That’s all he has. He’s very competitive, and when the horses come to him, he gives you everything he can. That’s all you can ask of a horse. He’s not very big, he’s not very beautiful, but obviously, he’s all heart and you can’t ask for anything else. He’s danced with all the good horses, and coming into today and doing it again, we got to give it to him.”
Medina Spirit returned $4.60 to win, $4.20 to place, and $3.40 to show. Stilleto Boy brought back $25.40 to place and $12 to show. Express Train paid $4.20 to show.
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