Medina Spirit went wire to wire to give trainer Bob Baffert a record seventh Kentucky Derby victory Saturday before 51,838 fans at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
Medina Spirit broke at 12-1 and held off 26-1 Mandaloun, 5-1 Hot Rod Charlie and 5-2 favorite Essential Quality in the stretch to prevail by a half-length under jockey John Velazquez, who won his fourth Kentucky Derby.
Unlike most of Baffert’s previous Kentucky Derby winners, Medina Spirit was not a pre-race favorite to win.
“This is the only (Kentucky) Derby I came in here thinking ‘Well, I just don’t know if we have the goods,’” Baffert said. “‘We know he’s solid, he’s good and he’s tough but everything’s going to have to go really well to get it done.’”
A son of Protonico, Medina Spirit posted a winning time of 2:01.02 for the 1 1/4 miles and paid $26.20, $12.00 and $7.60.
Mandaloun and rider Florent Geroux finished second paying $23.00, $13.40 in falling just short of making Brad Cox the first Louisville-born trainer to win the Kentucky Derby.
Hot Rod Charlie, with rider Flavien Prat, was a half-length back in third and paid $5.20. He finished a head in front of Essential Quality, who finished fourth under Luis Saez in a field of 19 3-year-olds.
Bob Baffer: Medina Spirit An ‘Overachiever’
Baffert’s colt Authentic won last year’s Kentucky Derby, which was held on Labor Day Weekend before no paying spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m just so thrilled, because when you win, you just never know if you’ll be back,” Baffert said minutes after Medina Spirit’s win.
Baffert said Medina Spirit reminded him of Silver Charm, who in 1997 became the trainer’s first Kentucky Derby winner.
“He’s always shown he’s been an overachiever. His heart is bigger than his body,” said Baffert of Medina Spirit, who sold for $1,000 as a yearling and for $35,000 as a 2-year-old.
“When we turned for home, something just told me … he reminded me of Silver Charm … that he doesn’t know he much he costs, and he wouldn’t let anybody pass him.”
Medina Spirit improved to 3-3-0 in six career starts. He entered the race following a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.
John Velazquez Closing On History
Hall of Famer Velazquez, who rode Authentic last year, needs one more victory to tie Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack for most Kentucky Derby wins by a jockey.
“Medina Spirit is all heart. Just put him in the game and let him fight the whole way around,” Velazquez said. “That’s exactly the way it worked out. Every time I asked him for a little more, he gave me more and more.”
Winning owner Amr Zedan started Zedan Racing Stables just five years ago.
“This is really surreal. I can’t believe it,” Zedan said. “On (Medina Spirit’s) way into the stretch, I just couldn’t see anything, it went gray. And all of a sudden everyone’s jumping on top of me.”
Known Agenda’s ninth-place finish was the best among trainer Todd Pletcher’s four starters. Sainthood (11th), Bourbonic (13th) and Dynamic One (18th) were the others.
The University of Louisville marching band, as it traditionally has done, played “My Old Kentucky Home” before this year’s race. The song was performed by a bugler last year.
The Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown, will be run May 15 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)