Medina Spirit
Medina Spirit on the track at Pimlico. Photo by Allison Janezic.

Medina Spirit’s last visit to the East Coast was, let’s say, a bit bumpy. His connections will be hoping for a smoother ride this time around.

Medina Spirit is the headline act in Parx Racing’s big show, the Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby, which takes place Saturday, September 25. He is scheduled to face nine rivals.

The California-based, Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit last was in this part of the country in May. That’s when, in the space of two weeks, finished first in a stirring battle in the Kentucky Derby, was found to have illegally carried betamethasone in his system during the race, became the subject of endless controversy, and finally was a well-beaten third in the Preakness Stakes.

The loss in the Preakness dashed Medina Spirit’s Triple Crown hopes, and it’s possible, once the legal maneuvering is complete, that he’ll lose his blanket of roses, too. Both the initial test and split sample test revealed the presence of betamethasone, though the case remains in court, with Baffert’s attorney arguing that the corticosteroid’s presence was a result of contamination.

Kentucky’s rules call for the horse to be disqualified if found to have carried betamethasone, but the state stewards have yet to issue such a ruling.

Since the Preakness, Medina Spirit has started just once, winning the $100,000 Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar.August 29. The Protonico colt, owned by Zedan Racing Stable, will break from the nine-hole in the PA Derby.

One foe familiar to Medina Spirit will be Hot Rod Charlie. The Doug O’Neill trainee has twice finished third behind Medina, once in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita and then again in the Kentucky Derby. He’s owned by Boat Racing LLC, Gainesway Stable, Roadrunner Racing and William Strauss.

Most recently, Hot Rod Charlie, who was also a game second in the Belmont, was first past the post in the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth Park but was disqualified to seventh for impeding a rival, Midnight Bourbon, who stumbled badly but was able to recover and complete the course, albeit without his rider.

Midnight Bourbon apparently is doing just fine. The Steve Asmussen trainee bounced back from that near-disaster to be a game second in the Grade 1 Travers behind Essential Quality and is slated to contest Saturday’s PA Derby, as well. A son of Tiznow owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC, he has a Grade 3 win on his resume and also was second in the Preakness.

Local hopes will rest with I Am Redeemed. The Parx-based son of Redeemed is trained by Penny Pearce and has won three of four. Most recently he beat older runners decisively in the Storm Cat Stakes for state-breds. He’s a homebred for Larry Rebbecchi.

Also entered: multiple graded winner Fulsome, who took the local prep for this race, the G3 Smarty Jones, for trainer Brad Cox; Keepmeinmind for Robertino Diodoro; the lightly raced Speaker’s Corner (Bill Mott); Grade 3 winner Weyburn (Jimmy Jerkens); and Grade 2 Wood Memorial winner Bourbonic for Todd Pletcher.


  1. Fulsome (jockey Florent Gerous/trainer Brad Cox)
  2. Keepmeinmind (Joel Rosario/Robertino Diodoro)
  3. Speaker’s Corner (Jose Ortiz/Bill Mott)
  4. Weyburn (Paco Lopez/Jimmy Jerkens)
  5. I Am Redeemed (Abner Adorno/Penny Pearce)
  6. Bourbonic (Kendrick Carmouche/Todd Pletcher)
  7. Hot Rod Charlie (Flavien Prat/Doug O’Neill)
  8. Midnight Bourbon (Ricardo Santana, Jr./Steve Asmussen)
  9. Medina Spirit (John Velazquez/Bob Baffert)
  10. Americanrevolution (Luis Saez/Todd Pletcher)