Bargain Buy Medina Spirit More Than Paying His Way Thus Far - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Bargain Buy Medina Spirit More Than Paying His Way Thus Far

Medina Spirit and jockey Abel Cedillo (right) hold off Roman Centurian (left), and Hot Rod Charlie to win the Robert B. Lewis Stakes

Medina Spirit could become one of racing's all-time bargains.

Whether he will someday rank with the likes of Carry Back and Seattle Slew in that category, only time will tell, but at this early point, he is moving in the right direction.

For the record, Carry Back, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1961, was obtained for tip money, a $700 investment, $400 of it a stud fee to a nondescript stallion named Saggy, whose solitary moment of racing glory came in an upset of 1948 Triple Crown king Citation in the Chesapeake Trial Stakes that year.

Carry Back raced an incredible 21 times as a two-year-old. A stone closer, the plain brown colt retired with 21 wins, 11 seconds and 11 thirds from 61 starts. He earned $1,241,165 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.

Seattle Slew was purchased for $17,500, became the first undefeated Triple Crown winner in 1977 when he was Horse of the Year and earned $1,208,726 from a career record of 14 wins and two seconds in 17 starts. Going on half a century later, he remains a gold standard among Thoroughbred greats both as a race horse and a stallion.

Although he has already earned more than three times his purchase price of $35,000, Medina Spirit has miles to run before reaching the lofty pinnacles of Carry Back and Seattle Slew.

His connections are optimistic, however. One is private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young, who purchased the Florida-bred son of the Giant's Causeway stallion Protonico for owner Amr Zedan as a two-year-old in training at last year's Ocala Breeders' Sale.

“Mr. Zedan had given me $2 million to spend and I had exceeded the budget,” said Young, 59, a clocker since he was 18 and an agent for more than 30 years. His best buy to date was 1993 Breeders' Cup Juvenile champion Brocco, who raced for the late Albert and Dana Broccoli, producers of the iconic James Bond movies.

“Because of Covid and because it was July, the sale did not have as much depth as usual,” Young said. “At the end of six days with six-hour daily previews I would usually have looked at 50 to 80 horses; I saw 10.

“After the previews, Mr. Zedan called me and asked if I remembered seeing a horse by Protonico and I told him, yes, that horse made my list. He asked me to look at the horse again, and I did. He was OK, but he wasn't going to be the sales topper or anything.

“Protonico raced about 10 years ago when trained by Todd Pletcher, and was owned by Mr. Zedan's friend, Oussama Aboughazale, who has a breeding operation called International Equities Holding in Kentucky where Princess Noor was bred.”

Both men are from a city in Saudi Arabia called Medina, which as a girl's name is of Arabic origin meaning “city of the Prophet,” and is where Muhammad began his campaign to establish Islam.

“Protonico had a very small crop and Medina Spirit was the only one of his progeny at the sale,” Young said. “He had worked three-eighths in 33 flat which was decent time, but he had a nice rhythm and a stride like a route horse. Mr. Zedan asked what I thought and I said, 'Buy him.'

“We did the barn check, did the vet check with my doctor, Pug Hart, everything was in order and we bought him for $35,000, which is 2.5 percent of what we paid for Princess Noor (now retired due to a soft tissue injury after a brief but sensational racing career for Bob Baffert).

“Medina Spirit went to Baffert's assistant Mike Marlow at Los Alamitos, and Mike is brutally honest, and he has to be because he's preparing these horses for Baffert.

“Mike said the horse kept surprising him because he was outworking more expensive and better-bred horses and definitely holding his own.

“They brought him to Santa Anita, Bob worked him out of the gate with Life Is Good a couple of times, and he got beat as expected, but he didn't get disgraced, and I kind of thought to myself, this might make a man out of him. After that, Bob worked him with a couple other horses and he handled them, didn't get discouraged or anything.

“When he ran at Los Alamitos (winning his debut race by three lengths at 5 ½ furlongs last Dec. 11), we thought he'd be even-money and he was 3-1. He won pretty easy, but his second (by three-quarters of a length behind Life Is Good) in the Sham at one mile is what really opened our eyes as to how good he was.

“He was stretching out after one 5 ½ furlong race with one five-eighths work in between at 1:02 to go a mile against Life Is Good, and he ran his butt off. Whether he would have passed him or not is open to debate, but you can't deny he did run unbelievably considering he didn't have a whole lot of preparation for the race.

“We didn't want him in front (in the Lewis). When they hung a 46 and three (46.61 for a half mile), I thought he was finished, because 46 and three on that track was like 45 and change.

“He was about a length in front from the one hole in the Sham with a really easy run to the turn. In the Lewis, he broke half a step slow and Abel (Cedillo) kind of punched him a little and he was gone. He wasn't a runoff, but he definitely had his mind on running.

“When they went 46 and three, I didn't think we had much chance, and when the two horses (late-running Roman Centurian, second by a neck, and Hot Rod Charlie, a nose further back in third) came to him at the eighth pole, I didn't think we had much chance, either.

“But the horse obviously has a lot of fight in him. He showed an amazing amount of heart. He had every right the next day to be lying down in his stall and sleeping the way he ran, but he wasn't.

“Whether we'll go one start or two starts before the Kentucky Derby, we'll figure that out. I'd prefer to have him running at a horse like he did in the Sham as opposed how he ran in the Lewis, but that's how the race came up. Still, they weren't even passing him after the wire, either, and the two horses behind him are OK.

“Roman Centurian can definitely make some noise down the road.”

That might be true, but he won't be any bargain.

He cost $550,000.

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