Wednesday, May 5, 2021
$500,000 guarantee on Thursday
    HALLANDALE BEACH - Racing returns to Gulfstream Park Thursday with an eight-race program highlighted by a guaranteed pool in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 of $500,000. First race post is 12:50 p.m.

    There could be two key races in the Rainbow sequence, both maiden claiming events.

    The third leg is a $50,000 maiden claiming race for fillies and mares at five furlongs on the turf. The race drew a field of seven led by a tepid 3-1 in the morning-line Shea On a Mission, a Carlos David-trained daughter of Mission Impazible making her career debut. Bettabe Swift draws the rail after finishing second in her career debut at the same distance and surface for trainer Kathleen O’Connell. Uncaptured Heart will try the turf for the first time for trainer Ralph Nicks.

    The eighth race, the final leg of the sequence, will also be a five-furlong turf event for 3-year-olds and up. Unlonely is listed at 7-5 off a pair of second-place finishes for trainer Joseph Saffie Jr. Nketiah drops from maiden special weight company after a fifth-place finish in his debut on the dirt at Tampa. Gilberto Zerpa is the trainer.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Medina Spirit doing well after Derby victory . . .
    BALTIMORE - John and Diane Fradkin’s Rombauer, third in the Blue Grass Stakes in his most recent start, is headed to the May 15 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. "That’s the plan,” trainer Michael McCarthy said Monday.

    The homebred son of Twirling Candy automatically qualified for a starting berth in the 146th Preakness with his victory in the El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 13 at Golden Gate Fields. He was third, beaten 5¾ lengths in the Blue Grass behind champion Essential Quality and Highly Motivated, who finished fourth and 10th, respectively, in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

    Since Rombauer has been most effective running from off the pace, McCarthy said the Blue Grass did not suit him because there was no early speed in the race at Keeneland. “The horse laid a little closer than I would have liked but ran a credible third,” McCarthy said.

    Rombauer was second by three-quarters of a length in the American Pharoah (G1) on Sept. 26 at Santa Anita and completed his 2-year-old season with a fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 6 at Keeneland. “He’s done everything and made a nice little progression from 2 to 3,” McCarthy said. “He’s put on a little weight. He’s a horse that takes pretty good care of himself, so he’s been pretty easy that way.”

     McCarthy said that Rombauer will have his final work at Santa Anita and will ship to Pimlico early next week.

 ‘All Systems Good’ for Kentucky Derby Hero Medina Spirit      

     Last September, Jimmy Barnes watched on his phone in an ambulance as his boss Bob Baffert captured a record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby with Authentic in the COVID-delayed Classic. Saturday, Baffert’s long-time assistant trainer was back watching the race in person at Churchill Downs as Medina Spirit provided Baffert a record-breaking seventh Kentucky Derby victory.

     Barnes had sustained a fractured wrist when the barn’s other 2020 Derby entrant, Thousand Words, reared and flipped as the assistant trainer attempted to saddle him in the paddock’s walking ring. Knocked off balance, Barnes fell and landed awkwardly on his right wrist. Barnes was back at Baffert’s Churchill Downs barn the next morning after the break was set at Louisville’s Norton Audubon Hospital, but he ultimately had surgery in California with screws inserted to stabilize the injury.

     “Especially if you win, you want to be here,” Barnes reflected Monday at Churchill Downs. “But I’d been here enough and we’d won it enough that I knew what was ahead of me. They didn’t know how hard it was going to be to get out of here. They said we could either go now (to the hospital) or it could be like 8 o’clock when you get out of here. I knew I probably had four or five hours at least ahead of me, setting it and doing all that. So I said, ‘Let’s go.’ And I watched it on my phone.”

     The mishaps weren’t over, however, as Authentic later knocked down Baffert in the Derby winner’s circle on the turf course.

     “It was nice to have Jimmy there and nobody fell down in the winner’s circle,” Baffert said Sunday of Medina Spirit’s victory in the 147th Derby. “It was very enjoyable, and it was good to do it in front of fans.”

     Now back on his pony, Barnes again is overseeing Baffert’s Pimlico-bound contingent, which, in addition to the Derby winner, could include Rebel Stakes winner Concert Tour for the May 15 Preakness as well as horses for other stakes next week. Baffert will be out to break a tie with fellow Hall of Famer Robert Wyndham Walden, who had seven Preakness winners between 1875 and 1888. Baffert’s most recent of seven Preakness champions include Triple Crown winners Justify in 2018 and American Pharoah in 2015. Each of his Preakness winners went on to be voted 3-year-old champion.

     Medina Spirit, who has never been worse than second in six career starts, paid $26.20 to win as the sixth betting choice of 19 while marking the seventh California-based horse to win the Derby in the last 10 years.

     “Was I surprised?” Barnes asked. “He was running against good horses in California. California horses are usually right there in the Kentucky Derby. He’d run second to (now-injured stablemate) Life Is Good. He was second to John Sadler’s horse (Rock Your World) in the Santa Anita Derby. So he’d run respectable races, maybe not the way we needed him to run. He wants to be up front, out in the clear and we had other horses who were faster than him. It just didn’t work out for him. He ended up having to be behind and having to close. But going a mile and a quarter, you just never know: Are we going to go on the lead the whole way? I thought there was enough speed that someone would have gone with us.”

     Medina Spirit had a second walk day Monday since keeping runner-up Mandaloun at bay for a half-length victory Saturday, with third-place Hot Rod Charlie and fourth-place favorite Essential Quality both beaten about a length for everything.

     “He’ll probably walk three days – that’s our typical deal,” Barnes said. “Maybe Wednesday he’ll jog. We’ll see how the weather is. It’s hard to give them too many days off when we’re coming right around. But all systems look good right now. Everything is good.”

     Baffert also has Concert Tour, who bypassed the Derby after finishing third in the Arkansas Derby, under Preakness consideration. Concert Tour worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:00.60 Sunday and is scheduled to work again this weekend. Gary and Mary West’s son of 2007 Derby winner Street Sense walked Monday and will jog today, Barnes said.
Saturday, May 1, 2021
Bob Baffert smells the roses for record 7th time . . .

    Medina Spirit made the First Saturday in May an 'affair to remember' for Florida's thoroughbred community, winning the 147th Kentucky Derby with a gutty performance and giving trainer Bob Baffert his record seventh victory in the world's most famous race, and jockey John Velazquez his fourth.

    It also gave Kentucky breeders apoplexy.

    A 3-year-old son of  Protonico, Medina Spirit follows in the footsteps of Florida-breds Needles (1956), Carry Back (1961), Foolish Pleasure (1975), Affirmed (1978), Unbridled (1990) and Silver Charm (1997) and is the first from the state to win since Silver Charm's victory. Baffert was also the trainer of Silver Charm.

    Medina Spirit was bred by Ocala's Gail Rice, and sold for just $1,000 to Christy Whitman at the OBS Winter sale in 2019 out of the consignment of Summerfield Sales. The Whitmans then pin-hooked him into the OBS July 2-year-old sale last year and he was purchased for $35,000 by Zedan Racing Stables, in whose colors he won today at odds of 12-1.

    Medina Spirit went into the Derby with two victories and three seconds under his belt racing strictly in California. He broke his maiden at odds of 3-1 in December racing 5 1/2 furlongs at Los Alamitos and later won the Gr. I Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with the Derby third-place finisher, Hot Rod Charlie, finishing a close third that day, too.

    Baffert's colt's second-place finishes came in the Gr. I Santa Anita Derby, Gr. II San Felipe and Gr. III Sham. His record is now 3-3-0 in six starts and today's $1,860,000 bonanza raised his total to $2,175,200.

    Velazquez put Median Spirit on the lead down the long stretch the first time around and kept the field at bay with a quarter in :23.09, a half in :46.70 and six furlongs in 1:11.21, with fellow Florida-bred Soup and Sandwich stalking in second with Tyler Gaffalione. When Soup and Sandwich began to back up, Florent Geroux took over the second spot with 26-1 Mandaloun and they remained glued that way all the way to the wire, with Medina Spirit prevailing by half a length. Hot Rod Charlie came on for third with Flavien Prat and had every chance to win it, but fell short by a length in the driving finish. Essential Quality, the 5/2 favorite, was fourth with Luis Saez, a head behind Hot Rod Charlie.

    The race went in 2:01.02 and produced some juicy payoffs for the long shot players. The $2 8-7 exacta returned $503.60, and the 50-cent 8-7-9 trifecta paid $848.45. The $1 superfecta - 8-7-9-14 - came back $9,456.40. 

    The wagering pools were astronomical: win-place-show ($69,432,825); exacta ($22,218,094); trifecta ($30,501,566) and superfecta ($13,933,415). The total all-sources handle for the day reached $233 million, second-best of all time behind 2019's $250.9 million. On the Derby alone, the handle was $155.4 million, also second-best to 2019's $165.5 million. The limited attendance totaled 51,838 after last year's sorry, no visitors edict. 

    A check of the official Equibase chart shows there was very little movement for the entire mile and a quarter. The best finish from the also-rans came from Keepmeinmind with David Cohen; the 49-1 shot rallied from 19th after three-quarters to finish seventh, about eight lengths behind the winner. 

    Now it's on to Pimlico with the obligatory, but useless, two-week speculation revolving around a Florida Triple Crown.  






Friday, April 30, 2021
South Florida resident wins in 18th try . . .
    HALLANDALE BEACH - Apprentice jockey Rene Diaz broke through to notch his first career win Thursday at Gulfstream Park after guiding Jessica ($14) to a three-length victory.

    The 21-year-old jockey achieved the ever-important milestone in front-running fashion aboard the Michael Yates-trained 5-year-old mare in Race 3, a seven-furlong race for $12,500 filly and mare claimers.

    “It feels amazing. It felt like the wire was getting further and further away from me,” Diaz said. “Thank God, my parents and everyone that supported me. I’m grateful for the connections, also -- Mr. Yates, Shadybrook Farm. It’s just amazing, an amazing feeling. Indescribable.”

    Diaz, who grew up in South Florida and played high school soccer with fellow Gulfstream jockey Romero Maragh, worked his way up the ladder on the South Florida backstretches.

    “I was just freelancing in the backstretch, working for everybody and helping everyone out. Picking up things little by little, learning little by little,” he said. “It’s been a long three years of practicing until I decided this was my year to start. So much has happened due to the coronavirus. I’m just happy to be here and blessed.”

    Diaz, who won his first race on his 18th career mount, expressed gratitude to the trainers who helped him realize his dream of becoming a jockey.

    “I first started in the shedrow, shedrowing horses for [trainer] Aubrey Maragh. He gave me a huge chance. He was a big support. Also, Monica McGoey was a big support. She’s really the person that let me get my gate card and gave me a whole bunch of horses to breeze,” Diaz said. “Then I started expanding my horizons with Joe Orseno, Happy Alter, and Louis Roussel, where I learned a lot.”

Rainbow 6 Jackpot Pool Guaranteed 

     The 20-cent Rainbow 6 jackpot pool will be guaranteed at $400,000 today. The multi-race wager went unsolved Thursday for the sixth day since an April 17 mandatory payout. Multiple tickets with all six winners were each worth $4,570 Thursday.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Essential Quality draws No. 14 with Luis Saez . . .

1. Known Agenda - Irad Ortiz  (6-1)

2. Like the King - Drayden Van Dyke  (50-1)

3. Brooklyn Strong - Umberto Rispoli (50-1)

4. Keepmeinmind - David Cohen (20-1)

5. Sainthood - Corey Lanerie (50-1)

6. O Besos - Marcelino Pedroza Jr. (20-1)

7. Mandaloun - Florent Geroux (12-1)

8. Medina Spirit - John Velazquez (15-1)

9. Hot Rod Charlie - Flavien Prat  (8-1)

10. Midnight Bourbon - Mike Smith (20-1)

11. Dynamic One - Jose Ortiz (20-1)

12. Helium - Julien Leparoux (50-1)

13. Hidden Stash - Rafael Bejarano (50-1)

14. Essential Quality - Luis Saez (2-1)

15. Rock Your World - Joel Rosario (5-1)

16. King Fury - Brian Hernandez Jr. (20-1)

17. Highly Motivated - Javier Castellano (10-1)

18. Super Stock - Ricardo Santana Jr. (30-1)

19. Soup and Sandwich - Tyler Gaffalione (30-1)

20. Bourbonic - Kendrick Carmouche (30-1)