The most exciting time of the year for horse racing is underway. And this year's Kentucky Derby lived up to the anticipation with the type of thrilling finish that the event is known for.
On Saturday, Medina Spirit went wire-to-wire, holding off Mandaloun to win the 2021 Derby at Churchill Downs. It was the seventh career Kentucky Derby victory for trainer Bob Baffert, who broke the record previously held by Ben Jones (six). Baffert also won the Derby last year when Authentic raced to victory.
Jockey John Velazquez also won the Kentucky Derby for the second year in a row, as he's now a four-time champion in the Run to the Roses after his dominant showing with Medina Spirit. Now, will Medina Spirit become the second horse in four years to win the Triple Crown?
Here's a look back at this year's Derby, followed by a Triple Crown prediction for Medina Spirit.
Kentucky Derby Results
1. Medina Spirit (2 minutes, 1.02 seconds)
2. Mandaloun (-1/4 lengths)
3. Hot Rod Charlie (-1 length)
4. Essential Quality (-1 length)
5. O Besos (-5 1/2 lengths)
6. Midnight Bourbon (-8 1/2 lengths)
7. Keepmeinmind (-8 1/2 lengths)
8. Helium (-10 1/2 lengths)
9. Known Agenda (-10 1/2 lengths)
10. Highly Motivated (-10 1/2 lengths)
11. Sainthood (-12 1/2 lengths)
12. Like The King (-12 1/2 lengths)
13. Bourbonic (-15 1/2 lengths)
14. Hidden Stash (-16 1/2 lengths)
15. Brooklyn Strong (-18 lengths)
16. Super Stock (-19 1/2 lengths)
17. Rock Your World (-24 lengths)
18. Dynamic One (-31 lengths)
19. Soup and Sandwich (-64 lengths)
20. King Fury (scratched)
Triple Crown Prediction
It's a challenging feat for one horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. And while there have been two to do it in the past six years (American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018), only 13 horses have won the Triple Crown in the long histories of these marquee horse races.
Medina Spirit only had 12-1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby, as numerous other horses appeared to be more likely to race to victory. Instead, Medina Spirit had an impressive showing, as he's now finished either first or second in each of his first six career races. It was his first victory since January after he placed second in his previous two events, including the Santa Anita Derby in April.
The Preakness is next on the Triple Crown schedule, as it's set to take place May 15. After that, the Belmont Stakes will occur on June 5. And at that point, it's possible that Medina Spirit will have become the 14th Triple Crown champion in horse racing history.
But Medina Spirit's quest will first continue at the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. And if he again breaks strong from the gate and quickly gets to the front of the field, he's going to be difficult to beat.
It's likely that Medina Spirit will be the betting favorite for the Preakness following his Kentucky Derby victory. He's no longer a surprise horse, as he made it clear what he is capable of during his dominant showing at Churchill Downs.
There are going to be a lot of other strong horses in the Preakness field. It won't be known for a bit which Derby competitors will also be heading to Pimlico, but there's a decent chance that quite a few of them will be.
While Medina Spirit had a wire-to-wire showing at the Kentucky Derby, several horses stayed close behind. Mandaloun was neck and neck with him coming out of the final turn, while Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality stayed close and ended up third and fourth, respectively.
But Medina Spirit proved to be too strong during that final stretch. And by winning the Derby, he exceeded most expectations.
"Every time I asked him for a little more, he gave me more," Velazquez said, per Beth Harris of the Associated Press.
Could Medina Spirit win both the Preakness and Belmont? Yes, but it's going to require him getting off to strong starts in both races. And there are going to be other horses capable of doing the same.
So, the prediction here is that Medina Spirit will come up one win shy of the Triple Crown. He'll carry this momentum over to the Preakness, get off to a strong start there and race to victory. However, a slow start at the Belmont will allow another top horse to establish an early lead and go on to win.
Prediction: Medina Spirit wins Preakness, falls short at Belmont