Medina Spirit claims Kentucky Derby win

AAPAAP
John Velazquez has ridden Medina Spirit to victory in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Camera IconJohn Velazquez has ridden Medina Spirit to victory in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Credit: AP

Medina Spirit has fought off three challengers in the stretch to win the Kentucky Derby by a half-length, making Bob Baffert the most successful trainer in the race's 147-year history with seven victories.

Jockey John Velazquez earned his fourth Derby victory on Saturday aboard the dark brown colt that was purchased as a yearling for $1,000 and cost current owner Amr Zedan $35,000.

Medina Spirit crossed the line first in front of 51,838 fans at Churchill Downs in the largest US sporting event since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mandaloun finished second with Hot Rod Charlie another half-length back in third.

Race favourite Essential Quality finished fourth in the 1-1/4-mile (2km) race on a fast dirt track.

"I knew he (Medina Spirit) was training well, but I'm really surprised - when I saw him on an easy lead, I kept waiting for these horses to come at him," Baffert told NBC Sports.

"But Johnny had him in the perfect spot and if you have him on the lead he'll fight.

"When those horses came to him - I cannot believe he won this race. This little horse, that's him - he was all guts."

Baffert won back-to-back, having tied Ben Jones with his sixth win last year when the Derby was run in September without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It hasn't sunk in yet (setting new record), I love the record but it's one of those things - I'm so thrilled, you just never know if you are ever going to be back. It's so difficult," Baffert said.

Velazquez became the first jockey to win consecutive Derbies since Victor Espinoza in 2014-15. He also completed the Kentucky Oaks-Derby double for the first time since 2009, having won the race for fillies on Friday.

"I said to Bob we're going to put him on the lead and see what happens and I think he's the horse to beat. It worked out," Velazquez said.

The Derby was held under a blue sky with the attendance of almost 52,000 still about 100,000 fewer than usual.

The patrons were required to wear masks over their mouths and noses but that went largely went ignored - with many having their masks pulled down covering their chins only.

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