Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit won’t run in Pennsylvania Derby

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
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BENSALEM, Pa. – Medina Spirit, the Kentucky Derby winner who failed a postrace drug test, won’t run in Saturday’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby.

Embattled Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday he is going to keep the colt in California and run in the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes against older horses at Santa Anita on Oct. 2.

Medina Spirit was the 2-1 early favorite for the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing. He has won three of seven starts this year.

“I want to do what is best for the horse,” Baffert said. “I don’t like the way he drew.”

Medina Spirit was assigned post position nine in the Pennsylvania Derby.

The colt was set to face nine others, including Belmont Stakes runner-up Hot Rod Charlie and Midnight Bourbon, who was second in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

“I have a lot of respect for the other two horses,” Baffert said. “I was really looking forward to it. It’s a great race with him in there, but it’s something I have to do. I feel that part of my success is knowing when to run. This is a management call of mine.”

Baffert has won the Pennsylvania Derby three times, most recently with McKinzie in 2018.

Baffert said Private Mission, the 9-2 early favorite for Saturday’s $1 million Cotillion at Parx Racing, will also stay home. She will be pointed to the $200,000 Zenyatta Stakes on Oct. 3, also at Santa Anita.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has yet to render a final verdict as part of its investigation into Medina Spirit testing positive for the steroid betamethasone. Churchill Downs suspended Baffert for two years.

369 horses nominated to compete in Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A total of 369 3-year-olds were made eligible to compete in this year’s Triple Crown series during the early nomination period.

Each of the horses was nominated through a $600 payment to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes. The Triple Crown opens May 6 with the Derby.

The number of nominated horses increased by 57 from last year’s total of 312. They include a record 37 horses based in Japan.

Among the notable horses is Forte, last year’s 2-year-old champion trained by Todd Pletcher.

Also among the predominantly male horses nominated was a filly named Hoosier Philly.

Brad Cox led all trainers with 38 horses nominated to the series. Pletcher was second with 36 horses, followed by Steve Asmussen and Ken McPeek with 13 each. Chad Brown and Hideyuki Mori had 12 each.

Others nominated include Arabian Knight, Cave Rock and Newgate, all trained by Bob Baffert. He is currently banned by Churchill Downs Inc. through this year’s Derby, although Baffert is challenging his two-year punishment in federal court.

For the Derby, horses under the care of any suspended trainer may be transferred to another trainer and become eligible to earn Derby qualifying points as long as the transfer is done by Feb. 28.

Last year, Baffert transferred two horses to another trainer and both ran in the Derby, although neither was highly placed.

Horses that were not nominated to the Triple Crown series by the early deadline of Jan. 28 can make a late payment of $6,000 through March 27 to become eligible.

Newgate wins Robert B. Lewis Stakes; Baffert runs 1-2-3-4

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Newgate won the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with Bob Baffert as the trainer of all four horses in the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Newgate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11 and paid $4 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite. There was no show wagering because of the field size.

Hard to Figure returned $5.20 at 12-1 odds. Worcester was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Arabian Lion was fourth.

“So much improvement in all these horses,” Baffert said. “I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen, but I can relax now.”

The Lewis was a Kentucky Derby prep race, but no points were awarded because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The Hall of Fame trainer was in Louisville to testify in federal court as he seeks a temporary injunction to end the suspension, which runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet. It was meted out following a failed drug test by Medina Spirit after the colt finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Newgate earned his first graded stakes victory. The colt was second, beaten by a neck in the Sham Stakes last month in his previous start.

“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said.

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Newgate’s career earnings to $241,975, with two wins in six starts.