Over the years, Bob Baffert of Nogales, AZ has become synonymous with horse racing. Now he is one of the greatest trainers ever in the sport. On Saturday, Baffert won a record seven Kentucky Derby titles as a trainer when his horse, Medina Spirit crossed the finish line first in the biggest horse race of 2021.
This was the 147th Kentucky Derby since the race first took place in 1875. In addition to winning this year, Baffert also won the Kentucky Derby in 1997 (alongside Silver Charm), in 1998 (alongside Real Quiet), in 2002 (alongside War Emblem), in 2015 (alongside American Pharoah), in 2018 (alongside Justify), and in 2020 (alongside Authentic). American Pharoah and Justify each won the Triple Crown. In winning his seventh Kentucky Derby as a trainer, Baffert passed Ben A. Jones of Parnell, MO, who won six Kentucky Derby titles as a trainer. Jones previously won in 1938 (alongside Lawrin), in 1941 (alongside Whirlaway), in 1944 (alongside Pensive), in 1948 (alongside Citation), in 1949 (alongside Ponder), and in 1952 (alongside Hill Gail). Like American Pharoah and Justify, Whirlaway and Citation each won the Triple Crown.
Meanwhile, it was the fourth Kentucky Derby win for jockey John Velazquez of Carolina, Puerto Rico. He previously won with Animal Kingdom in 2011, Always Dreaming in 2017, and with Authentic in 2020. However, when Velazquez won in 2011 and 2017, he won with H. Graham Morton of Cambridge, England, and Todd Pletcher of Dallas, TX as his trainers.
In Saturday’s race, Medina Spirit was not the favourite to win. Essential Quality was the morning line favourite at 2-1. Medina Spirit was at 15-1. Velazquez made the smart decision and decided to go fast early with Medina Spirit. It paid off as Essential Quality got off to a slow start, and even though the favourite looked a little threatening down the stretch, it was too little, too late.
The race will also go down in history as being extremely controversial. That is because over 50,000 spectators attended the race, the largest attendance for a sporting event since the pandemic began. Even though spectators were told to wear masks, many did not, and thus did not follow CDC guidelines. Meanwhile, Kentucky Derby organizers need to take responsibility for not doing an adequate job of ensuring all spectators wear masks.