The Kentucky Derby returned in a grand fashion in 2021 with its traditional date on the first Saturday in May. Medina Spirit won it all with a day of perfect conditions at the 147th Kentucky Derby. The race marked a record seventh Derby victory for trainer Bob Baffert, as well as a fourth win for jockey John Velazquez.
The legendary trainer reflected on the 3-year-old brown colt. ““This little horse coming in here, he’s always shown he’s an overachiever. His heart is bigger than his body. When he turned for home, something just told me. He reminded me of Silver Charm (his first Derby winner). He doesn’t know how much he cost. He wouldn’t let anyone pass him. Mr. Zedan wanted to come to the Derby with a $45,000 horse. I thought we’d see what happens. This horse, the way he ran, I didn’t know he had it in him. Johnny Velazquez is unbelievable. He’s so cool. He told me last night not to underestimate this horse. He’s better than you think.”
Medina Spirit had been listed at 15-1 coming into the weekend, with odds finishing at 12-1. Once a yearling purchased for $1,000, got out to an early lead over the field, with Soup and Sandwich on the outside. Pre-race favorites Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality were well off the lead early, but began closing at the half-mile mark. At the three-quarter mile mark of the 1 ¼-mile race, Essential Quality began making the move from fifth, but as the field came down the stretch, Medina Spirit just held the lead.
“Every time I asked him to give more he kept fighting,” said Velazquez. “You couldn’t ask for more of a horse. When you ride a horse like this who is competitive you can’t ask for anything else.”
The attendance for the Derby was 51,838. NBC commentators said the Derby is believed to be the most attended sporting event in the US since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Preakness Stakes, the second race in the Triple Crown, is scheduled for May 15 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.