Kentucky Derby: Baffert couldn’t believe his eyes on Madina Spirit win

Its a photo finish for Madina Spirit at the Kentucky Derby at Church Downs on Sat May 1, 2021 (AP News photo)

By Jessica Kwong

Medina Spirit made history at the 147th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday with an upset that gave trainer Bob Baffert his record seventh win in “The Run for the Roses.”

The yearling only had the sixth best odds in the race at 12-1 but took an early lead. Essential Quality, the favorite at 3-1 odds, was well off the lead early but started closing in at the half-mile mark, along with Hot Rod Charlie with odds at 5-1. Essential Quality started making the move from fifth at the three-quarter mile mark, but Medina Spirit maintained the lead. Medina Spirit also held off a late charge from Mandaloun, who finished in second place followed by Hot Rod Charlie.

Medina Spirit crossed the finish line at 2:01:02, with jockey John Velazquez. His victory was a shock to his trainer.

“I knew he was training well, but I’m really, really surprised,” Baffert said. “When I saw him on the easy lead, I kept waiting for these horses to come at him, but Johnny had him in a perfect spot. If you have him on the lead, he’ll fight.”

Baffert is the only trainer with seven Kentucky Derby wins.

Medina Spirit also boosted Velazquez’s career as one of the best jockeys in the sport. His name may sound familiar, as he won the 2020 race in September riding Authentic. Velazquez has won four Kentucky Derbys and is one of only seven jockeys to win consecutive ones.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d win four Derbys,” Velazquez said. “I never look at the numbers … I just want to come and do my job.”

The $3 million purse is distributed among the top five finishers. Medina Spirit earned $1.86 million, Mandaloun got $600,000, Hot Rod Charlie received $300,000 and Essential Quality took $100,000.

Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, typically draws more than 150,000 people for the race that is part of the Triple Crown. Due to the pandemic, the attendance this year was just 51,838. Last year, the race was run without spectators.

Here’s the Kentucky Derby 2021 finish order:

1 – Medina Spirit

2 – Mandaloun

3 – Hot Rod Charlie

4 – Essential Quality

5 – O Besos

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