The roar of even the smaller crowd of 51,838 beneath the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs sounded louder than ever, after the global pandemic forced the delayed 2020 edition to be held without spectators on Sept. 5. Returning to it’s rightful place on the first Saturday in May, the end result was the same: trainer Bob Baffert and jockey John Velazquez teamed up to win the Run for the Roses.

Last year it was with Authentic, eventual Horse of the Year, tying Baffert with “Plain” Ben Jones for the most Kentucky Derby winners all time with six.

In this 147th edition, the horse was the bargain buy Medina Spirit ($26.20), owned by Derby first-timer Amr bin Fareer bin Mohammed bin Zedan. The son of Protonico cost just $1,000 as a yearling, and Zedan purchased him for $35,000 as a 2-year-old.

Baffert has now saddled seven winners of the Kentucky Derby, more than any other trainer in history. Velazquez has won four editions, and also captured this year’s Kentucky Oaks with the Todd Pletcher-trained Malathaat.

Medina Spirit grabbed the lead at the start from post position eight, set all the fractions, and fended off challenges from Mandaloun, Hot Rod Charlie, and the favored, previously undefeated champion Essential Quality through the length of the stretch to win by about a half-length. He ran 1 1/4 miles over Churchill Downs’ fast main track in 2:01.02.

“That little horse has got a heart,” Baffert said.

 





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