Never count Bob Baffert, the King of the Kentucky Derby.
Medina Spirit, touted as one of the Derby’s “Top 5 or 10 Horses” earlier this week by Baffert, took the lead out of the gate and never let go when he won the Run for the Roses on Saturday.
With an announced crowd of 51,838 at Churchill Downs, Baffert won his seventh Kentucky Derby and, with a coach, broke the most tie with Ben Jones in the race’s 147-year history.
“I knew he was training well, but I’m really, really surprised,” said Baffert. “When I saw him on the leash, I was waiting for the horses to come towards him, but (Jockey John Velazquez) had him in the perfect place. And if you have him on a leash, he will fight. When these horses came to him, I can’t believe he won that race. That was all him. It was courage. “
Medina Spirit completed the 1 ¼ mile in a fast lane in 2: 01.02, paying $ 26.20 on a $ 2 bet.
Baffert and Velazquez teamed up to win the derby for the second year in a row when Authentic won last year’s race that was postponed until Labor Day weekend due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fans weren’t allowed to attend last September, but the 50,000+ on Saturday came to a close on a fine spring Saturday. Mandaloun was half a length back in second place and Hot Rod Charlie was half a length back in third. Essential Quality, the favorite after the time, took fourth place.
Mandaloun and Essential Quality are both coached by Brad Cox, who first appeared in the Kentucky Derby and tried to become the first Louisville-born coach to win the Kentucky Derby.
Medina Spirit set solid early fractions of 23.09 seconds for the quarter mile, 46.70 seconds for the half mile and 1: 11.21 for three quarters.
Mandaloun, Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality all charged in the last furlong outside Medina Spirit but failed to catch him.
“It’s just not getting old,” said Velazquez, who won his fourth derby overall. “It’s a pleasure to be here and to win it again. I want to come back next year. “
Medina Spirit, owned by Amr Zedan’s Zedan Racing Stables, improved to 3: 3: 0 in six career races. He had two distant second places in Santa Anita Park and lost on March 6th in class 2 San Felipe 8 lengths against Life Is Good and 4¼ lengths in the Santa Anita Derby Class 1 against Rock Your World on April 3rd.
With these defeats Baffert had downplayed his horse’s chances earlier this week and once described Medina Spirit as “a cut among these top horses”.
After the race, Baffert said: “He’s a high-flyer. His heart is bigger than his body. “
Medina Spirit, a son of Protonico out of the Mongolian Changa mare Brilliant Speed, was bought for $ 35,000 at the Ocala Breeders Sales 2020 for 2-year-olds and horses of racing age.
“He doesn’t know how much it cost,” said Baffert.