Liberal Arts Skips Rebel, Preps for Arkansas Derby

February 16, 2024

When winter weather postponed the Southwest one week, Robert Medina made the decision for Liberal Arts to train up to the Arkansas Derby rather than contest its final major local prep, the G2 Rebel Stakes Feb. 24 (Coady Photography)

By Robert Yates – Oaklawn Park

HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— No. 15 became No. 1 for trainer Robert Medina.

Medina saddled his first career Oaklawn winner when favored Story Hour scored a front-running 1 ¼-length victory in Sunday’s eighth race, a $140,000 entry-level allowance for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

Story Hour ($8) was the 15th starter at the meet for Medina, a former assistant under Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey who ran his first horse in 2020. 

“They’ve been beating me up,” Medina jokingly said following the victory. “They done grounded me into salt.”

Prior to his breakthrough victory, Medina finished second in Sunday’s seventh race with even-money favorite Lips Say Bliss and had five third-place finishes at the meet, notably Liberal Arts in the $800,000 G3 Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds Feb. 3.

“They’ve been running well,” Medina said. “Sometimes, your horse runs well and you’re just not getting the wins. You’ve just got to be patient and keep reminding yourself it’s February. They don’t name champions in February. You just remain patient and some of some of those seconds and thirds, they’ll turn into wins.”

Medina has a division at Oaklawn for the first time in 2023-2024. He keeps around 10 horses in Hot Springs and also has a string at The Thoroughbred Center, a central Kentucky training facility where Story Hour and Liberal Arts have been based this winter.

“I’m going to start switching some more horses out,” Medina said. “I’m going to bring her back, definitely.”

Liberal Arts returned to The Thoroughbred Center following the Southwest, which marked his first start since winning the $200,000 G3 Street Sense Stakes Oct. 29 at Churchill Downs. Liberal Arts closed well in the Southwest to finish a neck behind runner-up Just Steel. Mystik Dan won the Southwest by eight lengths.

Medina said Liberal Arts returned to the track Feb. 8 and continues to target the nine-furlong $1.5 million G1 Arkansas Derby.

With the Southwest postponed one week because of winter weather, Medina said Liberal Arts will train up to the Arkansas Derby rather than contest its final major local prep, the 8 ½-furlong $1.25 million G2-Rebel Stakes Feb. 24. 

“All looks really good on him,” Medina said. “I mean, I wish that we would have gotten to run on Jan. 27 because I would have run in the Rebel. God willing, he’s going to run here in the Arkansas Derby.”

Liberal Arts, Medina’s first career graded stakes winner, has 19 points to rank eighth on the latest Kentucky Derby leaderboard released by Churchill Downs. The race is limited to 20 starters. 

@Tracking_Trips using p6k king picks a $1 Sftbx box on off 13 races would cost $312 return over $7300

Robert Fair @robert_fair View testimonials