Baffert horse Corniche wins Breeders Cup at Del Mar

Corniche crosses the finish line with Jockey Mike Smith at the Breeders Cup at Del Mar on Fri Nov 5, 2021 (AP News photo)

By Jessica Kwong

Corniche, trained by embattled trainer Bob Baffert, on Friday won the Breeders’ Cup $2 million Juvenile, becoming a horse to watch for next year’s Kentucky Derby.

On the opening day of the 38th Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in California, jockey Mike Smith led Corniche to a 1 3/4-length victory.

Smith guided Corniche to break from the outside in the pack of 11 horses and did not give up the lead in completing the 1-1/16 miles in 1:42.50.

The jockey said he was mostly concerned with how warm Corniche was before the race.

“The only thing I was worried about was that he got hotter than he ever had. It just made me get calmer,” Smith said. “I don’t think I have ever been so calm in a big race. I just sat really still, he caught a flyer leaving the gate and I just left him alone.”

Corniche, the 7-5 favorite, earned his third victory in three attempts and positioned himself as an early favorite for the 2022 Derby.

Baffert said he knew from the 11th hole that Smith was going to have to push Corinche harder than usual.

“Mike is a great rider. I love him on a horse like that,” said Baffert, who won his 18th Breeders’ Cup and fifth Juvenile.

While all eyes are now on Corniche, it remains to be seen who will prepare him for the Derby. Baffert is banned from the race for two years after his Derby winner this year, Medina Spirit, came back with a positive drug test. Corniche would not be able to earn points to qualify for the Derby if trained by Baffert.

Pappacap, a 15-1 longshot, came in second with jockey Joe Bravo, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Giant Game, also a longshot.

Giant Game’s trainer Dale Romans said he thought they would win the Juvenile, but congratulated Corniche.

“Congratulations to the winner. It was a big race by him,” Romans said. “It’s hard to beat Bob on his home court.”

The Breeders’ Cup continues for its second day on Saturday.

Belmont Stakes: Essential Quality was the sure bet holds off runner up Hot Rod Charlie

Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr crosses the finish line with winning horse Essential Quality to win the 128th Metropolitan horse race at the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park NY on Sat Jun 5, 2021 (AP News photo)

By Jessica Kwong

The Belmont Stakes favorite, Essential Quality, won the 153rd running of the third and final leg of the Triple Crown on Saturday evening.

Essential Quality overtook the early leader, Hot Rod Charlie, in the final turn and held him off until the finish line and won the $1 million race.

“That was a long way around there a mile a half but it was exciting,” Cox said. “It looked like the horse on the inside, he still had run left. I knew it was going to be a battle down the line.”

Hot Rod Charlie finished second while the 146th Preakness Stakes champion, Rombauer, finished third.

Essential Quality gave his trainer Brad Cox his first Triple Crown victory. His jockey Luis Saez also won a Triple Crown race for the first time.

Saez said Belmont was his “second home” and that this was the race I wanted to win.”

Cox said that Saez “did a fantastic job of getting him in position turning for home and he was able to really show his stamina late.”

The race did not include Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, after the horse failed a drug test after the Derby. Medina Spirit’s trainer, Bob Baffert, has been suspended from the Derby for two years, it was announced on Wednesday. In addition, the New York Racing Association temporarily suspended Baffert from entering any races this month at the track that hosts the Belmont Stakes.

A limited crowd of 11,000 people attended the race at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, and were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test.

Called the “Test of the Champion,” it is the oldest event in the Triple Crown and also the longest, at 1½ miles, or 12 furlongs.

Here is the 2021 Belmont Stakes finish order:

1 Essential Quality

2 Hot Rod Charlie

3 Rombauer

4 Known Agenda

5 Bourbonic

146th Preakness Steaks: Rombauer out hustles Midnight Bourbon

Rombauer the winning horse crossing the finish line at the 146th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Sat May 15, 2021 (photo from @PreaknessStakes)

By Jessica Kwong

Rombauer outran Midnight Bourbon and controversy stricken Kentucky Derby victor Medina Spirit to win the 146th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Saturday evening.

Medina Spirit had appeared likely to win the second leg of the Triple Crown after taking first place at Churchill Downs two weeks ago, which was tainted by a positive test for a steroid post-race.

Both Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon, the early favorite, broke well early and Medina Spirit led into the first turn. Midnight Bourbon took over the lead as the horses went into the frontstretch. However, Rombauer made a late charge in the final yards and claimed victory by four lengths.

Rombauer, ridden by jockey Flavien Prat, finished in 1:53.62 and paid $25.60 on a $2 bet to win. Midnight Bourbon, at 3-1 odds, came in second while Medina Spirit, at 2-1 odds, finished third.

It was Prat’s second victory in a Triple Crown race. Prat won the Kentucky Derby in 2019 riding Country House, after Maximum Security was disqualified due to interference, so Saturday was a different feeling for him.

“There’s so much history behind these races, and to win one is great, and to win the Preakness is even better,” said Prat.

Rombauer’s trainer Michael McCarthy captured the honor in just his first appearance in the Preakness and said he was “so proud of this horse, everybody involved.”

“It just goes to show you that small players in the game can be successful as well,” McCarthy said.

Medina Spirit’s trainer Bob Baffert in a statement before the race on Saturday reiterated that his colt’s Kentucky Derby victory was “the result of the horse’s tremendous heart and nothing else” and that ‘there was never any attempt to game or cheat the system.” Medina Spirit cleared three rounds of drug testing on Friday heading into the Preakness.

Here is the Preakness 2021 finishing order:


2.Midnight Bourbon

3.Medina Spirit

4. Keepmeinmind

5. Crowded Trade

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

146th Kentucky Derby report: Authentic is the real deal, finishes ahead of Tiz the Law in Run for the Roses

Authentic gets to the finish line first in the 146th Kentucky Derby Sat Sep 5, 2020 as jockey John Velazquez  rides to victory (AP News photo)

By Jessica Kwong

Against the odds, Authentic raced ahead of favorite Tiz the Law to win the 146th Kentucky Derby on Saturday evening, giving its trainer Bob Baffert a record-tying sixth Run for the Roses victory.

Authentic, at 8-1 odds, showed he was the real deal, maintaining the lead from start to finish. Belmont Stakes champion Tiz the Law, at 3-5 odds, attempted to overtake Authentic in the final turn but was unable to and finished second. Authentic’s upset win brought an end to Tiz the Law’s bid for the Triple Crown.

“Yes! Yes!” Baffert exclaimed from the paddock where he viewed the race on video.

Authentic, ridden by John Velazquez, completed 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.61. Mr. Big News, at 46-1 odds, finished third and Honor A. P. came in fourth.

Velazquez, who captured his third Kentucky Derby victory, said, “Obviously, Bob, from the beginning, said ‘I’ve got a good one for you.’ This is it.”

Baffert, in turn, complimented Velazquez for “the most incredible ride.”

“The training was lights out. He was fresh. He’s a good horse, he’s our No. 1 pick from the beginning, and here we are,” Baffert said. “The greatest race in the world, and I feel very blessed and fortunate.”

Baffert is now tied with Ben Jones for the most all-time Kentucky Derby wins among trainers. In addition to Authentic, Baffert trained the last two thoroughbreds to win the Triple Crown, American Pharoah and Justify.

Authentic’s win was particularly meaningful for Baffert given his other horse, Thousand Words, reared in the paddock and got scratched minutes before post time. A few other thoroughbreds were scratched prior, making it a field of 15, the smallest since 1998.

The Kentucky Derby is traditionally held on the first Saturday in May, but was postponed to the first Saturday in September due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year saw a “backwards Triple Crown” with the Belmont Stakes in June, followed by the Kentucky Derby and finally the Preakness Stakes scheduled for October 3.

Tiz the Law was the first New York-bred horse to win the Belmont Stakes since 1882.

Churchill Downs was without the more than 150,000 spectators who usually attend with elaborate hats and outfits. This year’s Derby was also unusual with several protest groups converging outside the Louisville venue, including Until Freedom calling for justice for Breonna Taylor, the “Black militia” NFAC and Back the Blue counter-protesters.

2020 Kentucky Derby results:

1. Authentic – 8/1 – WIN: $18.80 – PLACE: $6.00 – SHOW: $5.00

2. Tiz The Law – 3/5 – PLACE: $3.40 – SHOW: $3.20

3. Mr. Big News – 46-1 – SHOW: $16.80


Headline Sports podcast with Barbara Mason: Calif Legislature looking into legalizing sports betting;Wallace insists rope was noose (see photo) ; plus more

@bobpockrass photo: NASCAR’s only black driver Bubba Wallace’s crew member found a noose in his garage stall on Sunday night. Wallace had pushed for banning the Confederate flag symbols at NASCAR races. The FBI concluded from video evidence that the noose had been at stall number four since October 2019 long before Wallace was booked for that stall last weekend it was later determined it was not a noose but a door pull. Wallace on Don Lemon Tonight on CNN said he knows what a noose looks like adding, “tied in 2019 or now it was a noose.”

On Headline Sports podcast with Barbara:

#1 California Legislature is considering legalizing sports betting but casinos are putting up a fight as it would cut into their sports book business.

#2 Bubba Wallace NASCAR’s only black driver who two weeks ago pushed for banning the Confederate flag at NASCAR events. A member of Wallace’s crew found a noose in his garage stall late Sunday afternoon. After bringing in 15 FBI agents for an investigation into who left the noose in garage stall four where Wallace was at Talladega. Video evidence showed that the noose had been there since October 2019 and it was determined it was not a noose but a door pull.  No one would have known that Wallace would have been at that stall going forward. The FBI said they will not pursue federal charges. Wallace insisted on CNN’s Don Lemon Tonight on Tuesday night that it was a noose.

#3 Webb Simpson won the RBC Heritage on Sunday after finishing 7 under Par 64 at Harbour Town at Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

#4 Tiz the Law set a record winning the Belmont Stakes last Saturday in what is one of the few live sports in the Coronavirus era. Tiz the Law with his victory became the first New York bred horse to win at the Belmont in 138 years.

#5 After someone who visited the San Francisco Giants training facility in Scottsdale who was Covid-19 positive the facility was immediately shut down on Friday night. The person was a family member and several other individuals are being tested who had come in contact with this positive tested person. Teams who have closed facilities Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies and the Giants.

Join Barbara for Headline Sports each Tuesday night at