Medina Spirit clears last pre-Preakness drug tests

BALTIMORE — Fans are again at Pimlico Race Course to witness one other probability at a Triple Crown.

The Preakness will really feel considerably again to regular, even when the whole lot carries an enormous asterisk.

The restricted capability of 10,000 followers anticipated Saturday is way lower than the group of 100,000 that often packs the grandstand and infield and is a fraction of the 50,000 who noticed Medina Spirit win the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs two weeks in the past. The Bob Baffert-trained colt was cleared Friday to run within the second leg of the Triple Crown after failing a post-Derby drug check.

All eyes are on the Preakness to see what is going to occur subsequent in horse racing’s newest chapter of drama.

“If Medina Spirit goes and wins the Preakness on Saturday, most people goes to simply instantly say, ‘Oh, effectively, look, there’s nonetheless one thing humorous happening,'” NBC Sports betting analyst Matt Bernier mentioned. “If he does not run effectively for no matter cause, most people will nonetheless take a look at it and say, ‘See, one thing humorous was happening within the Kentucky Derby.’ It’s a no-win state of affairs for Bob Baffert, for everybody concerned with the horse and for the trade as a complete.”

Because of the presence of the Derby winner with a Triple Crown nonetheless potential when the beginning gates open, the Preakness is often the most secure wager on the game’s calendar. The previous two years broke that pattern: The races had been out of order in 2020 due to the pandemic, and the 2019 Preakness got here out on the brief finish of the Derby mess after first-place finisher Maximum Security was disqualified and Country House was named the winner — although each horses skipped the Preakness.

Medina Spirit is a tainted champion after 21 picograms of the steroid betamethasone in his postrace blood pattern May 1. But he’ll get one other alternative within the Preakness after he and stablemate Concert Tour handed three extra prerace drug assessments agreed to by Baffert and Maryland racing officers.

“While we acknowledge the difficult circumstances that prompted this additional want for transparency, it displays, above all else, that the ideas of integrity, accountability, and security in our sport are non-negotiable.” mentioned Craig Fravel, CEO of 1/ST Racing, a branding arm of the Stronach Group that owns Pimlico Race Course.

Medina Spirit opened because the 9-5 morning line favourite and Concert Tour the 5-2 second selection. By Friday night, Midnight Bourbon had grow to be the 5-2 favourite.

“I’ve acquired individuals calling me [saying], ‘I actually like your horse,'” proprietor Ron Winchell of Winchell Thoroughbreds mentioned of Midnight Bourbon. “It’s laborious to not be overly optimistic.”

Aside from the circus surrounding Medina Spirit and Baffert — who shouldn’t be in Baltimore and has left assistant Jimmy Barnes in cost — there’s loads of optimism about 10 horses operating in entrance of followers once more on the Preakness. It may not be a full-out get together just like the Derby and will not function a jammed infield, however the Black-Eyed Susan drinks shall be flowing once more at Pimlico.

“Welcome, to say the least,” mentioned Steve Asmussen, who trains Midnight Bourbon. “It was such a rush to get again to the Derby this 12 months. We simply hadn’t had followers or something, and also you nearly weren’t prepared for it. But the power stage main as much as the race, through the race, wow, it was so welcome. And we would have liked it.”

The brief turnaround from the final Preakness on Oct. 3 gave Barnes much less time to get well from a damaged proper hand after a paddock accident on the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. He’s simply glad to be again doing his job and does not thoughts filling in for Baffert.

“I’m used to it,” Barnes mentioned. “I journey on a regular basis. I’m all the time on the street, and if Bob’s there typically, nice. If Bob cannot make it, then I simply have to choose up the slack and simply march on and attempt to do my finest and attempt to produce a win.”

Aside from the out-of-order 2020 Triple Crown, Baffert-trained Derby winners are undefeated within the Preakness. The earlier two, Justify in 2018 and American Pharoah in 2015, went on to win the Belmont.

“The Derby’s the toughest race to get by means of to start with,” Barnes mentioned. “To get right here, I do not know. It looks like the horses that run effectively within the Derby actually present up right here. At least each certainly one of ours has.”

Baffert’s Authentic misplaced a stretch duel to filly Swiss Skydiver within the first October Preakness with no followers in attendance. 1/ST Racing chief advertising officer David Wilson mentioned that did not really feel proper and is hopeful a couple of limited-capacity Preakness this 12 months and a vibrant future.

“It simply felt unusual,” he mentioned. “It’s going to be nice to have followers again and we’re sort of treading slowly. And I hope by Preakness 147, we’ll have a packed home.

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