Bob Baffert is now officially the winningest trainer in Kentucky Derby history.
The Hall of Fame conditioner scored his seventh Kentucky Derby triumph Saturday as Medina Spirit led gate-to-wire at Churchill Downs. Baffert passed Ben Jones, who he tied last year for the all-time mark in Derby victories by a trainer.
Medina Spirit covered 1 1/4 miles Saturday in 2:01.02 under jockey John Velazquez, returning $26.20 at 12-1 odds. Mandaloun, Hot Rod Charlie, Essential Quality and O Besos finished second through fifth, respectively.
That's now 7 #KyDerby victories for HOF & 2x Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert.May 1, 2021
Baffert’s previous six Kentucky Derby wins came with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (’98), War Emblem (2002), American Pharoah (’15), Justify (’18) and Authentic (’20).
"It was a thrilling win," Baffert said after the Florida-bred Medina Spirit, who was once auctioned for $1,000, scored the trainer's record seventh Derby victory. "For this little horse, what he did today, he has so much of Silver Charm in him. Such a fighter."
Baffert broke the Kentucky Derby record on the same day he passed D. Wayne Lukas on the list of Grade 1 victories when Gamine scored his 220th. He now owns 221 such wins.
"I don't think about the records," Baffert said. "I just want to be back with a horse that's competitive. The Kentucky Derby, there's other races, but the Derby is 'the' race. Just to come here with a competitive horse, I thought we had a competitive horse."
Velazquez won the Derby for the fourth time, having also scored aboard Animal Kingdom (2011), Always Dreaming (’17) and Authentic. He also became the first jockey since Calvin Borel in 2009 to pull off a Kentucky Oaks-Kentucky Derby double, having won Friday's Oaks aboard Malathaat.
Medina Spirit entered off a second-place run to Rock Your World last month in the Santa Anita Derby. His only prior stakes win came in January at Santa Anita in the Robert B. Lewis (G3).
Velazquez won last year’s Kentucky Derby by working Authentic in from an outside post and making the lead, then turning back a stretch challenge from Tiz the Law. He did not have to come from as far outside Saturday, breaking from Post No. 8, and was able to put Medina Spirit at the front of the field.
Fractions for Medina Spirit were 23.09, 46.70, 1:11.21 and 1:35.98. Mandaloun sat a stalking trip on his outside under jockey Florent Geroux and pulled alongside him at the top of the stretch.
Like last year, it was the Baffert-trained colt with Velazquez up prevailing by in a stretch duel. Medina Spirit scored by a half-length over Mandaloun.
"I knew he was going to fight anyone who came to him, and he did today," Velazquez said.
Mandaloun was second by another half-length over Hot Rod Charlie, who was a head clear of fourth-place Essential Quality.
Owner Zedan Racing Stables purchased Medina Spirit for $35,000 in a July 2020 sale. The Protonico colt previously sold for $1,000 as a yearling.
Trainer Brad Cox finished second and fourth with Mandaloun and Essential Quality, the 5-2 morning-line favorite. Last year’s Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Trainer was bidding to become the first native-born Louisvillian to saddle a Derby winner.
“I thought we had two big shots,” Cox said. “And we did. We knew coming in all week that we had two big shots. We were right where we wanted to be turning for home.”
Hot Rod Charlie entered the Kentucky Derby off a Louisiana Derby (G2) score. He was trying to become trainer Doug O’Neill’s third Derby winner.
“We had a good trip,” jockey Flavien Prat said “We were in super position. I was right behind the speed and I was traveling well. Turning for home I thought I had my chance to go by them and they just had just pushed him. But he ran a huge race.”
The $2 exacta returned $503.60, the $1 trifecta $1,696.90 and the $1 superfecta $9,456.40.
The full order of finish: 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, Super Stock, Rock Your World, Dynamic One and last-place Soup and Sandwich.