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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Medina Spirit likely doesn't need Baffert

by Wally Hall | May 13, 2021 at 2:27 a.m.

There is no way Medina Spirit will be juiced for Saturday's Preakness.

The winner of the Kentucky Derby, who later tested positive for a steroid, is under heavy scrutiny with pre-race testing, and all the Triple Crown races provide 24-hour security from the time a horse steps into his stall until he ships out.

If by some freak occurrence he did test positive, no one will be able to blame trainer Bob Baffert. He isn't coming.

But don't be surprised if Medina Spirit makes the lead and gets the win.

That's partly because he is a tough horse with a lot of heart, and partly because this isn't a strong field. Only two entries besides Medina Spirit ran in the Derby.

Midnight Bourbon, 5-1 on the morning line, finished sixth by more than 8 lengths. Keepmeinmind, at 15-1, was seventh. He did get bumped at the start of the race.

Both passed tiring horses in the last 200 yards.

The Preakness attracted only 10 horses. One of those, France Go de ina, has never raced in the United States, so we don't know if he even likes Baltimore water. He did win a couple of races in Japan. He's 20-1 and not the longest shot in the field.

That distinction belongs to Ram, who drew the No. 1 post.

It took Ram eight tries to break his maiden, and that was in a maiden claiming racing at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. Two weeks later, he won an allowance race on Kentucky Derby Day. Now the son of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is in the second leg of the Triple Crown.

While he's likely to be 50-1 by post time, he's a bit of a sentimental favorite, or should be. He's trained by D. Wayne Lukas, a regular at Oaklawn, and will be ridden by Oaklawn's leading rider Ricardo Santana Jr.

He does appear to be a horse who is improving, and he may be the primary challenger to Medina Spirit for the lead.

The biggest challenger could come from the same barn as Concert Tour is also trained by Baffert.

Don't make a big deal about Baffert not being there. He doesn't come to Oaklawn unless it's to fight a suspension, but he's cashed plenty of the track's checks.

Concert Tour drew the favorable outside post, No. 10, and the winner of the Rebel Stakes is working well. He was held out of the Kentucky Derby after running third in the Arkansas Derby. He's the 5-2 second favorite.

Crowded Trade will break from the No. 4 hole and should pay handsomely if he wins. The only win of his three-race career was a maiden race.

Rombauer breaks from the No. 6 spot, and he's had two wins in six starts. His last race he finished third in the Blue Grass Stakes at 24-1. He was bumped during that race but ran third all the way around the track.

Unbridled Honor is another long shot with just a maiden race win on his resume, but he's seen good competition while finishing second in the Lexington Stakes and fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby. He has good breeding and is trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.

Rounding out the field is Risk Taking, a well-bred colt who sold for $150,000 as a 2-year old. He won the prestigious Withers Stakes and was the favorite in the Woood Memorial, but he bobbled at the start and didn't recover while finishing seventh.

He along with Rombauer and Concert Tour are the most rested in the field as it will have been six weeks since they raced.

That's what the field looks like for the 146th running of the Preakness, and that's why Medina Spirit is the favorite and Concert Tour is second choice, although their trainer is an absentee this week.

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