Bob Baffert's Medina Spirit Upsets Essential Quality to Win 2021 Kentucky Derby

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMay 1, 2021

Kentucky Derby entrant Medina Spirit works out Churchill Downs Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. The 147th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 1. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Trainer Bob Baffert has made history thanks to Medina Spirit's upset win at the 2021 Kentucky Derby on Saturday evening from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Starting from the eighth post with 12-1 odds (bet $100 to win $1,200), Medina Spirit held off a late charge from Mandaloun, Hot Rod Charlie and odds-on-favorite Essential Quality. 

NBC Sports @NBCSports

Medina Spirit is the winner of the @KentuckyDerby! 🏇🏆 Watch the full #KyDerby race from start to finish. #DerbyAtHome NBC Sports // @WhiteClaw https://t.co/cHYh3VgXz8

The win for Medina Spirit is a record Kentucky Derby victory for a horse trained by Baffert.

Andrew Chernoff - WLKY @ADChernoff

Bob Baffert wins a record 7th KY Derby!!! Medina Spirit is your champ! 🏆 https://t.co/j26HzfxAlb

The purse for the Kentucky Derby is $3 million split between the top five finishers, the same amount as it was in 2019 and 2020. Medina Spirit earned $1.86 million for his stable with a victory. Runner-up Mandaloun receives $600,000, followed by $300,000 to Hot Rod Charlie, $100,000 to Essential Quality and $60,000 to O Besos. 

Here's the official order of finish (post position) and payouts: 

1. Medina Spirit (8)

2. Mandaloun (7)

3. Hot Rod Charlie (9)

4. Essential Quality (14) 

5. O Besos (6)

6. Midnight Bourbon (10)

7. Keepmeinmind (4)

8. Helium (12)

9. Known Agenda (1) 

10. Highly Motivated (17)

11. Sainthood (5)

12. Like The King (2)

13. Bourbonic (20)

14. Hidden Stash (13)

15. Brooklyn Strong (3)

16. Super Stock (18)

17. Rock Your World (15)

18. Dynamic One (11)

19. Soup and Sandwich (19)

20. King Fury (Scratched)

Payouts* (Win, Place, Show)

1. Medina Spirit ($26.20, $12.00, $7.60)

2. Mandaloun (-, $23.00, $13.40)

3. Hot Rod Charlie (-, -, $5.20)

*Based on $2 bet

$2 Exacta (8-7): $503.60

$1 Trifecta (8-7-9): $1,696.90

$1 Superfecta (8-7-9-14): $9,456.40

Results via NBC broadcast.


Saturday's run at Churchill Downs caps off a meteoric rise for Medina Spirit that began back in 2019. 

Darren Rovell @darrenrovell

Medina Spirit was bought for the minimum price of $1,000 when he was a yearling. No one made a second bid. Medina Spirit just went nearly wire to wire to win the Kentucky Derby.

Medina Spirit was a sleeper candidate coming into the race after a second-place showing at the Santa Anita Derby. 

Leading up to Saturday's event, Reinier Macatangay of Horse Racing Nation called Medina Spirit the X factor in the field:

"If Medina Spirit is asked out of the gate, he can make the front more difficult for Rock Your World than in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), when Rock Your World took control comfortably on the first turn and went on to open up in the stretch for a 4 1/4-length victory. Given Caddo River’s defection, the opening is there for another speed horse to set the pace."

Macatangay was critical of jockey John Velazquez for taking a conservative approach with the horse in the previous two races at Santa Anita and San Felipe. Santa Medina wound up finishing second in both of those events. 

Velazquez was apparently saving his aggressive approach for the Kentucky Derby, and it paid off. The 49-year-old got his fourth career win at this event and second straight after riding Authentic to victory last year. 

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

John Velazquez aboard Medina Spirit gives Bob Baffert his 7th Kentucky Derby win, breaking a tie with Ben Jones for the most wins all-time by a trainer. Velazquez also becomes just the 3rd jockey over the last 30 years to win consecutive Derbies. https://t.co/NA5jFLJvxo

Of Baffert's seven wins at this event, three have come in the last four years and five have come since 2015. The 68-year-old surpassed Ben Jones for most Kentucky Derby wins by a trainer. Jones won six between 1938 and 1952.

Mandaloun had a fantastic bounce-back effort after a disappointing sixth-place showing at the Louisiana Derby. He won three of his first four races prior to the March 20 event. 

Hot Rod Charlie, who won the Louisana Derby, has put together a fantastic resume over the past six months. It started with him finishing second to Essential Quality at the Breeders Cup Juvenile in November. He finished third at the Robert B. Lewis Grade 3 stakes on Jan. 30, behind Medina Spirit and Roman Centurian. 

Essential Quality came into the race as a 2-1 favorite after five straight wins to begin his racing career. The Brad Cox-trained thoroughbred put himself on the map in November with a victory at the Breeders' Cup. 

After a three-month break, Essential Quality returned to the track on Feb. 27 with a 4¼-length win at the Southwest Stakes to solidify his standing as the horse to beat in the first Triple Crown race of the year. 

There was heavy competition behind Essential Quality, not even including the horses that finished above him on Saturday.

Rock Your World (5-1 odds) won each of his first three races this season, including the Santa Anita Derby four weeks ago. That was a crucial feather in his cap because it was his first win on dirt after back-to-back wins on turf. 

Known Agenda (6-1) was coming into his own leading up to the Kentucky Derby. The three-year-old colt rebounded from a fifth-place showing at the Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 6 with back-to-back wins. His victory at the Florida Derby was a good sign for his chances coming into Churchill Downs. 

Despite facing a loaded field, Medina Spirit came out on a top in a thrilling finish with the top four competitors all within one length of each other. 

The next stop on Medina Spirit's road to the Triple Crown will be the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on May 15.