Does Medina Spirit need the lead to win the Preakness?

Does Medina Spirit need the lead to win the Preakness?
Photo: John Voorhees/Eclipse Sportswire

It did not take long, barely long enough for the results of the Kentucky Derby to sink in, for fans to begin speculating about the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the 146th Preakness Stakes.

It would seem likely that we will see the top four from the Kentucky Derby as well as familiar faces from the Derby trail in Caddo River and Concert Tour. Fans should remember those two very well from their matchups in the Rebel Stakes (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1). In the latter, the two hooked up early and set blistering fractions that caused a pace meltdown and set the stage for Super Stock to take the victory.

[RELATED: Medina Spirit could face big field in Preakness Stakes]

Should both make the Preakness, it is quite possible we will see a similar scenario, which has many questioning whether Medina Spirit will fare as well as he did in the Kentucky Derby. Fellow HRN columnist Reinier Macatangay believes that Medina Spirit may be able to win only if on the lead. (He makes his case here.) If that is the case, then the Preakness most certainly would be problematic to win.

It is easy to assume that Medina Spirit is best on the lead and cannot win if forced in a stalking roll, but I believe that assumption is very premature.

It is true that Medina Spirit ran his best race on the lead. He was challenged at every point. First by Soup and Sandwich, then Mandaloun, then Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality. Despite the pressure, Medina Spirit refused to break. He ran an exceptional race in an exceptional time, earning career-high speed figures.

On the flip side, in his two prior starts he failed to make up any ground on Life is Good and Rock Your World after stalking them. While that might seem like a red flag, a crucial detail is being left out. Medina Spirit was chasing a horse that was the lone speed. When that occurs, especially when the horse being chased is of the caliber of Life is Good or Rock Your World, they do not slow down. That makes it difficult to run them down.

Looking at the potential runners of the Preakness, Medina Spirit might be forced to go back to pressing the pace, but it is unlikely that he will be trying to run down a loose-on-the-lead frontrunner. With that being the case, the speed will slow down, and Medina Spirit will be right there to assume command at the top of the stretch.

From there, who knows what might happen. Medina Spirit has yet to be passed in the stretch, and Baffert has an excellent record with Derby winners capturing the Preakness. All we know is that with the field likely to be full, we are in for another exciting Triple Crown race.

Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college, she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at Virginia Intermont College and then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010, Laura began writing for Horse Racing Nation and has also contributed to Lady and the Track, TwinSpires and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter.

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