LOUISVILLE, Ky. — John Velazquez was in a well-known place, within the lead aboard Medina Spirit within the Kentucky Derby and holding off the stretch bid of three challengers. This time, Bob Baffert could not consider what he was seeing.
Medina Spirit received by a half-length on Saturday, giving Baffert his seventh victory, probably the most of any coach within the race’s 147-year historical past.
The jockey and coach — each Corridor of Famers — teamed up eight months in the past to win a pandemic-delayed Derby in September with Genuine, who raced to an early lead and held on. That wasn’t so shocking.
This one was.
Despatched off at 12-1 — astronomical odds for a colt educated by the white-haired, two-time Triple Crown winner — Medina Spirit was in a avenue struggle thundering down the stretch.
The darkish brown colt was pressed by Mandaloun on his outdoors. Sizzling Rod Charlie was coming quick outdoors of Mandaloun, with 5-2 favourite Important High quality giving chase on the far outdoors.
“I stored ready for all these horses to cross him,” Baffert mentioned. “When he received to the eighth pole, we mentioned, ‘This man has received a shot.”’
Velazquez knew he had loads of horse left.
“We received to the sixteenth pole and he put his ears down and stored combating,” the jockey mentioned. “I used to be so happy with him.”
Within the paddock, Baffert watched in amazement as one of many least heralded Derby runners of his lengthy profession dug in on the entrance.
“You may inform he was laying it down and Johnny was driving exhausting,” Baffert mentioned. “He was simply relentless.”
Medina Spirit led all the way in which and ran 1¼ miles in 2:01.02. He paid $26.20, $12 and $7.60. The victory was price $1.86 million.
Velazquez earned his fourth Derby victory aboard the colt that was bought as a yearling for $1,000 and was a bargain-basement purchase at $35,000 final July for present proprietor Amr Zedan of Saudi Arabia. By comparability, Zedan just lately paid $1.7 million for an unraced 2-year-old.
“He does not know the way a lot he price,” Baffert mentioned, “however what a bit of racehorse.”
Baffert punched his proper arm within the air after watching the end on the video board. He was buried in celebratory hugs by his spouse, Jill, and youngest son, Bode. Jill Baffert had cause to rejoice earlier, when a horse she co-owns and is educated by her husband received a $500,000 race on the undercard.
“I am actually, actually shocked,” the 68-year-old coach mentioned of Medina Spirit.
It wasn’t false modesty. Baffert had been low-key about his probabilities after two of his greatest horses — Life Is Good and Live performance Tour — had been derailed alongside the Derby path.
Medina Spirit is not the standard high-priced expertise with a elaborate pedigree in Baffert’s California barn.
“I can’t consider he received this race,” the coach mentioned. “That little horse, that was him, all guts. He is all the time proven that he is been an overachiever. His coronary heart is larger than his physique.”
Medina Spirit has by no means completed worse than second in six profession begins and two of his three losses got here to Life Is Good, who possible would have been the Derby favourite had he not been injured.
“I’ve rehearsed this speech within the bathe and treadmill,” Zedan mentioned. “By no means thought I used to be going to do it, however right here I’m.”
Medina Spirit broke sharply out of the gate whereas Important High quality and 9-2 second selection Rock Your World bumped shortly after the beginning.
“We had been achieved,” Rock Your World’s coach John Sadler mentioned. “No likelihood.”
Important High quality was 5 horses large in each the primary and second turns earlier than taking intention at Medina Spirit within the stretch and developing brief in fourth place.
“He did not get the best journey,” coach Brad Cox mentioned of the favourite. “That may occur while you begin from the 14-hole.”
Mandaloun — Cox’s different entry — completed second and returned $23.00 and $13.40. Sizzling Rod Charlie, partly owned by 5 former Brown College soccer gamers, was one other half-length again in third and paid $5.20 to indicate.
Coach Todd Pletcher saddled 4 runners, together with his highest end being ninth with Recognized Agenda. Sainthood was eleventh, Bourbonic thirteenth and Dynamic One 18th.
Baffert received back-to-back, having tied Ben Jones together with his sixth victory final yr when the race was run in September with out spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The seven wins? I can not consider I received two,” Baffert mentioned. “That is what I like about this enterprise: No person is aware of for positive.”
Per week earlier, Baffert sat in entrance of the Arkansas Racing Fee interesting a 15-day suspension that was a part of his punishment for a pair of drug positives involving two of his horses from Could 2020. He was profitable, with the fee voting unanimously to cut back his fines and overturn the suspension.
“I am simply so grateful I can nonetheless compete at this degree,” Baffert mentioned.
Velazquez grew to become the primary jockey to win consecutive Derbies since Victor Espinoza in 2014-15. The 49-year-old rider additionally accomplished the Kentucky Oaks-Derby double for the primary time since Calvin Borel in 2009, profitable the $1 million race for fillies on Friday.
Velazquez had informed Baffert an evening earlier to not underestimate Medina Spirit, named for the second holiest metropolis in Islam and capital of the Medina province in Saudi Arabia.
“Each time I requested him for a bit of extra, he gave me extra,” Velazquez mentioned.
The Derby went off on a sun-splashed day with attendance of 51,838 — about 100,000 fewer than ordinary. Followers had been informed to put on masks contained in the observe, however loads of them didn’t.
O Besos completed fifth, adopted by Midnight Bourbon, Keepmeinmind, Helium and Recognized Agenda. Extremely Motivated was tenth, forward of Sainthood, Like The King, Bourbonic, Hidden Stash, Brooklyn Sturdy, Tremendous Inventory, Rock Your World, Dynamic One and Soup and Sandwich.