Baffert Wins 7th Kentucky Derby

Photo courtesy Anne M. Eberhardt
La Cañada Flintridge resident Bob Baffert, with his son Bode and wife Jill, celebrates his seventh Kentucky Derby win. The legendary trainer broke the tie with Ben Jones for most derby victories.

Legendary horse trainer Bob Baffert entered last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs with somewhat tempered expectations and for good reason. Oddsmakers didn’t have his thoroughbred racehorse, Medina Spirit, in the top five with 12-to-1 odds.
“This year, I really enjoyed myself,” he said. “I came in here under the radar. I thought, well, maybe he’ll get a piece of it or something.”
The horse ended up giving Baffert, a La Cañada Flintridge resident, one of the biggest victories of his storied career. Medina Spirit managed to recapture a lead that was relinquished at midstretch and held off Mandaloun to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Baffert now stands alone as the winningest trainer in the history of the Derby with seven victories. He previously won with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), Authentic (2020) and Triple Crown winners American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).
“I’m just elated,” a stunned Baffert said after the race. “I’m so fortunate. I cannot believe — I never imagined last night I was going to be sitting here. … But the seven wins, it’s like, I can’t believe I won two. It’s just like wow, can you believe it? Every time we’ve won, we look at each other, [my wife] Jill and I: ‘Can you believe we won the Kentucky Derby again?’ And it’s exciting.”
Medina Spirit broke quickly from the gate and led early with Soup and Sandwich and Mandaloun not far behind, but Baffert wasn’t celebrating just yet.
“We didn’t start rooting yet,” he said. “When we got to about the 1/8 pole, we thought, ‘This guy has got a shot.’ I felt bad because some of the connections with the other horses were around there, and we got pretty loud there. But it was just thrilling. “
Mandaloun battled for the lead in the final furlong but Medina Spirit held on to win the classic mile-and-a-quarter race in 2 minutes, 1.02 seconds.
With the $1.86 million prize money, Medina Spirit has now earned a total of $2,175,200.
“This little horse coming in here, he’s always shown he’s an overachiever,” Baffert said of Medina Spirit. “His heart is bigger than his body. When he turned for home, something just told me. He reminded me of Silver Charm. He doesn’t know how much he cost. He wouldn’t let anyone pass him. … This horse, the way he ran, I didn’t know he had it in him. [Winning jockey] Johnny Velazquez is unbelievable. He’s so cool. He told me last night not to underestimate this horse. He’s better than you think.”
When asked about going for another Derby win, Baffert replied, “Eight? Whatever. I may never have another horse good enough for this, but we’re not going to give up. And as long as clients still want me — I’m like Johnny, as long as they still want us, we’re going to stay in there fighting away trying to win these things.”
Medina Spirit is now the odds-on favorite to win the Preakness Stakes on May 16, a race that Baffert has won seven times.