Baffert’s Gutty Medina Spirit Becomes 20th Horse To Exit The Santa Anita Derby And Win The Run For The Roses At Churchill Downs





                ARCADIA, Calif. (May 2, 2021)–Bob Baffert’s Medina Spirit, upset winner of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby with John Velazquez aboard, not only provided Baffert with his record seventh Derby win and Velazquez with his fourth, he also became the 20th horse to exit the Santa Anita Derby and go on to win the Run for the Roses.


                Second, beaten 4 ¼ lengths by Rock Your World as the 4-5 favorite going a mile and one eighth in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby April 3, Medina Spirit, a Florida-bred colt by Protonico, out of the Brilliant Speed mare Mongolian Changa, was purchased for just $35,000 out of the 2020 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company July Two-Year-Olds and Horses of Racing Age Sale on the recommendation of Santa Anita-based private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young.


                A gate to wire winner of the Derby by a half length, Medina Spirit, off at 12-1, returned $26.20 to win while covering a mile and one quarter in 2:01.02.


                A first-out maiden winner going 5 ½ furlongs at Los Alamitos Dec. 11, Medina Spirit, who is owned by Zedan Racing Stables, demonstrated the gameness that has now enabled him to become a Kentucky Derby winner when running a close second to stablemate and early Derby favorite Life Is Good in the Grade III Sham Stakes at one mile here on Jan. 2. 


         A subsequent neck winner of the Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes at a mile and one sixteenth on Jan. 30, Baffert stayed home with Medina Spirit in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes March 6 and he finished a well beaten second to Life Is Good.


         Although Baffert downplayed Medina’s Spirit’s chances leading into yesterday’s Derby, he and Velazquez made the decision to let the colt roll on the front-end, instead of trying to ration his speed as was done when he was beaten 4 ½ lengths by Rock Your World in the Santa Anita Derby at a mile and one eighth.


         “I was counting on his heart,” said Baffert early Sunday morning from Louisville.  “He shipped well.  He had to run his A-game and he brought it.  He sort of ran the same race he ran in the Robert Lewis (Grade III at Santa Anita on Jan. 30).  He fought everybody off in the Lewis and did the same thing yesterday.  It was unbelievable, a great feeling, because I’m used to going in there with the heavyweights, the favorites and all that.”


        Young, who was also reached early Sunday in Louisville, touched upon the Derby-winning strategy.


         “There wasn’t much speed inside of him,” Young said.  “Plan A was to go to the lead, and the horse I feared most in the race (Rock Your World), got eliminated at the start…Medina has a lot of ability, but what takes him to the next level is his heart.  He never let a horse get in front of him yesterday, not even on the gallop-out.”


         Although John Sadler’s Rock Your World finished a disappointing 17th after a rough start, Doug O’Neill’s Hot Rod Charlie finished third, beaten one length under the current meet’s leading rider Flavien Prat, making for a 1-3 finish for Santa Anita-based runners.


         Dating back to O’Neill’s I’ll Have Another in 2012, an amazing seven out of the last 10 Kentucky Derbies have now been won by Southern California-based horses and Baffert, who has now won four out of the last seven runnings, added Medina Spirit to a Kentucky Derby trophy case that already included Silver Charm (1997); Real Quiet (1998); War Emblem (2002); American Pharoah (2015); Justify (2018) and Authentic (2020).


         In becoming the 20th horse to use the Santa Anita Derby as a prelude to glory at Churchill Downs, Medina Spirit joins an illustrious roster of local Derby alumni:  Gallahadion (13th, 1940); Hill Gail (1st, 1952); Determine (1st, 1954); Swaps (1st, 1955); Lucky Debonair (1st, 1965); Majestic Prince (1st, 1969); Affirmed (1st, Triple Crown winner 1978); Gato Del Sol (4th, 1982); Ferdinand (3rd, 1986); Winning Colors (1st, 1988); Sunday Silence (1st, 1989); Silver Charm (2nd, 1997); Real Quiet (2nd, 1998); Charismatic (4th, 1999); Giacomo (4th, 2005); I’ll Have Another (1st, 2012); California Chrome (1st, 2014); Justify (1st, Triple Crown winner 2018); Authentic (2nd, 2020) and Medina Spirit, second in this year’s Santa Anita Derby. 


Photo Credit: Coady Photography