Medina Spirit did indeed “move well” over Churchill Downs’ track, as his famous trainer Bob Baffert said he would at the beginning of the week, to win the Kentucky Derby with a time of 2:01.02. Mandaloun placed, and Hot Rod Charlie, very much among the first tier of favorites, showed. Medina Spirit went off at 12-1 and paid a handsome $26.20. Mandaloun, who admirably duked it out with Medina Spirit in the last eighth of a mile, and who briefly assumed the lead before losing it to Medina Spirit’s furious stretch run, paid a flat $23.00, and Hot Rod Charlie, long among the top favorites, paid $5.20 in show.
For his part, the race’s favorite, Essential Quality ran a decent-enough fourth, after having to recover from a bad bump at the break between him, and, predictably, the race’s ebullient second-favorite, Rock Your World. The lightly-raced Rock Your World didn’t even hit the board, but one has the sense that the collision he caused will be a lesson to him.
Medina Spirit brings Bob Baffert his seventh Kentucky Derby win, the most by a trainer in the race’s one hundred and forty-seven years. With seven Preakness Stakes victories, three Belmont Stakes, and two Triple Crowns to his credit, Hall of Fame trainer Baffert hardly needed any help in the record book, but the win cements his status as America’s greatest trainer, period.
There was a delightful quotient of admiring disbelief in the winner’s circle, even among Medina Spirit’s closest connections, and specifically between his beaming trainer and jockey, Baffert and John Velasquez. Baffert looked frankly surprised, as if his leap into the solitary position of the Kentucky Derby’s winningest trainer had yet to sink in.
“Johnny Velasquez said to me last night, don’t underestimate this horse,” Baffert said. “I knew he was an overachiever, with his heart bigger than his body. But he reminded me a little of Silver Charm, he just wasn’t gonna let anybody pass. For a $45,000-dollar horse, I am so proud of him. “
Perhaps Medina Spirit’s jockey, John Velasquez put it best: “This little horse was ready. You just put him in the game and let him do what he needs to do. Every time I asked him he gave me more. He was fighting.”