From Rory Carroll
(Reuters) – Medina Spirit stormed to victory in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, giving coach Bob Baffert a seventh record win in the $ 3 million Run for the Roses.
Under jockey John Velazquez, Medina Spirit jumped early and fought back in front of 51,838 fans in Louisville, Kentucky, at the biggest U.S. sporting event since the coronavirus pandemic began.
The win was Hall of Fame jockey Velazquez’s fourth place in the Triple Crown’s first race, which returned to its usual spot – the first Saturday in May – after being postponed to September last year due to the pandemic.
Baffert had downplayed his “little” horse’s chances before the race and was stunned to see the dark brown 3 year old maintain his speed for the duration of the 2km drive around the fast dirt track.
“This little horse has always shown he’s a high-flyer,” Baffert said of Medina Spirit, which was bought for $ 1,000 as a yearling, resold for only $ 35,000 in 2020, and is owned by Zedan Racing Stables.
“His heart is bigger than his body and when he turned home something told me that he doesn’t know how much it costs, he wouldn’t let anyone pass him.”
Velazquez, 49, said the emotions associated with winning the “most exciting two minutes in the sport” have not let up and praised the 12-1 horse.
“Every time I asked him to give more, he kept fighting,” he said.
“You can’t ask for more from a horse. When you ride a horse like this that is competitive, you can’t ask for anything else.”
Longshot Mandaloun finished second, 5-1 Hot Rod Charlie finished third and 5/2 favorite Essential Quality had to settle for fourth after taking a long turn into the track.
Medina Spirit paid $ 26.20 for the win, $ 12 for the seat, and $ 7.60 for the show.
Baffert, one of the most famous trainers in the world, has been scrutinized by state horse racing regulators in recent years after some horses tested positive for banned substances in his stables.
The story goes on
Saturday’s Kentucky Derby marked the first time all 19 participants ran without a Lasix injection since the drug became widely used in sports in the mid-1970s.
Lasix is used to prevent bleeding in horses’ lungs that can occur during strenuous exercise. But it’s also a diuretic that causes horses to lose pounds by urinating before a race, which can make them faster, but can also lead to dehydration.
Drug use in North American horse races has been criticized after the high profile deaths of horses on tracks like Southern California’s Santa Anita Park in recent years.
None of the three triple crown races will allow the drug to be used this year.
The second stage of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, takes place on May 15th. The third and final race, the Belmont Stakes, is scheduled for June 5th.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)