LOUISVILLE — Trainer Bob Baffert’s Medina Spirit won the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs before a limited, but boisterous crowd of 51,838.
The win gave Baffert a history-making seventh Run for the Roses victory, surpassing the legendary Ben Jones.
“It’s that feeling, that dedication we’ve put in,” Baffert said of his record-setting Kentucky Derby win.
Baffert celebrated his 220th career Grade 1 win earlier on the card when Gamine won the Derby City Distaff, so the Derby increased that record to 221.
Ridden by jockey John Velazquez, and sent out at odds of 12-1, Medina Spirit took the lead early in the 1 1/4-mile route for 3-year-olds and never looked back. Longshot Soup and Sandwich held the pressure to him on the outside as the pair covered a quick half-mile in 46.70 seconds. Mandaloun was a length back in third, with Helium in fourth.
Around the back turn, the field began to challenge Medina Spirit, with Hot Rod Charlie closing sharply up the rail and favorite Essential Quality coming after the leader from the outside. At the top of the stretch Medina Spirit, urged on by Velazquez, held strong to the lead. Mandaloun tried to catch him, with Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality coming up fast on his heels. But Medina Spirit would not let them gain on him and went on to win in wire-to-wire fashion, a half-length in front of Mandaloun. Hot Rod Charlie held third, a head in front of Essential Quality. O Besos finished fifth.
“Every time I asked him to give more he kept fighting on,” said Velazquez, who won his fourth Derby. “You couldn’t ask for more of a horse. When you ride a horse like this who is competitive you can’t ask for anything else.”
Owned by Zedan Racing Stables, Medina Spirit was bred in Florida-by Gail Rice. Medina Spirit was sold as a yearling for a bargain $1,000 at the Ocala Breeders Sales Company 2019 Winter Mixed sale and then sold a year later to owner Zedan Racing Stables.
“This little horse coming in here, he’s always shown he’s an overachiever,” Baffert said. “His heart is bigger than his body. When he turned for home, something just told me. He reminded me of Silver Charm (Baffert’s first Derby winner in 1997). He doesn’t know how much he cost. He wouldn’t let anyone pass him. Mr. (Amr bin Fareer bin Mohammed bin) Zedan wanted to come to the Derby with a $35,000 horse. I thought we’d see what happens. This horse, the way he ran, I didn’t know he had it in him. Johnny Velazquez is unbelievable. He’s so cool. He told me last night not to underestimate this horse. He’s better than you think.”
Baffert wasn’t the only one setting records. Ridden by Velazquez, Medina Spirit made the rider the eighth jockey — and first since Calvin Borel in 2009 — to win both the Kentucky Oaks and Derby in the same year. Velazquez won Friday’s Oaks aboard Malathaat for trainer Todd Pletcher.
The Kentucky Derby’s $1,860,000 purse for first place increased Medina Spirit’s earnings to $2,175,200.
Louisville native Brad Cox fared well in his first Kentucky Derby; his two horses, the 26-1 Mandaloun and 5-2 favorite Essential Quality, finished second and fourth, respectively.
“We had a big shot, both horses looked great,” Cox recalled as he watched his duo nearing the wire. “They were in great position. I really thought there was a shot we could run one-two, and we weren’t too far off. We were second and fourth, so it is what it is.”
Despite the loss, Cox was not deterred and vowed to be back for another try at the historic race.
“We’ll be back, I promise, we’ll be back,” the Louisville native said. “There’s one, or maybe a couple of these, with my name on it I do believe.”
Medina Spirit returned $26.20, $12 and $7.60 for a $2 wager. Mandaloun paid $22 and $13.40 for second and completed the $2 exacta of $503.60. Hot Rod Charlie returned $5.20 for third and completed the $0.50 trifecta of $848.45. Essential Quality finished fourth and completed the $1 superfecta of $9,456.40.
The 1 1/4-mile race was completed in 2 minutes, 01.02 seconds. The complete order of finish was Medina Spirit, Mandaloun, Hot Rod Charlie, Essential Quality, O Besos, Midnight Bourbon, Keepmeinmind, Helium, Known Agenda, Highly Motivated, Sainthood, Like the King, Bourbonic, Hidden Stash, Brooklyn Strong, Superstock, Rock Your World, Dynamic One and Soup and Sandwich.