Darren Cummings / AP
Medina Spirit overcame the tough chances of winning the 147th Kentucky derby on Saturday, giving coach Bob Baffert a record seventh win in the derby.
Medina Spirit, mounted by jockey John Velazquez, left the gate with an early lead and held on until the race met the final stretch.
Essential Quality, in fourth place, was the horse that had to win. Entering the race as a 5-2 favorite, the undefeated horse’s sprint at the last minute outside could not keep up with Medina Spirit’s unwavering pace.
As the dominant coach he is, the victory surprised Buffert.
“I can’t believe he won this race,” said Buffert, whose horse came in 12-1. “This little horse has a heart.”
“He has always shown that he is superior,” added the Hall of Fame coach. “I didn’t know if he had it in him.”
While Buffert praised Velazquez’s faith in the horse, the jockey attributed the stamina to Medina Spirit.
“Every time I asked him for a little more, he gave me more,” Velazquez said. “I was more tired than him.”
Medina Spirit was not the strongest horse of Baffert. The coach put his luck in the horse after his other two contenders, Life Is Good and Concert Tour, fell off the Derby track, respectively from injury and unclear performance. Now the derby winner in the Derby, Buffert has broken his tie with Ben Jones for most wins. This is Derby’s fourth win for Velazquez and his second in a row since he and Buffer finished first with Authentic last year.
Viewers of Churchill Downs enjoyed sunny weather and, with reduced capacity due to the pandemic, less congested celebrations. The event attracted more than 51,800 participants – about 40% of the usual crowd in Derby, officials said.
“In the past few days, that was all you did all day: wait in line for everything. Go watch the race, then get in line, get in line for a drink, get in line for the bathroom,” said local resident Tina Cox Associated. press.
Although masks are required, the crowd seems to pay more attention to the dress code of colorful hats and fresh costumes. Derby fans missed the action live last year, when the race took place without fans in the stands.
“It puts a little smiling face on the city for a minute, instead of all the doom and gloom, you come to this beautiful place and feel somehow normal again,” Cox said before the start of the race. “I’m always happy for the Derby, but this year everyone seems to appreciate everything a lot more.”
With Medina Spirit, Buffert’s next stop is Preakness Stakes on May 15th. He will be looking for another Triple Crown: He leads Justify in 2018 and American Pharoah in 2015 to sweep Derby, Preakness and Belmont.