In yesterday's 147th running of the Kentucky Derby, MEDINA SPIRIT fought off all challengers in deep stretch for the win, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his seventh and record-breaking victory in the prestigious race. Owners Zenden Racing received their trophy, and their triumphant Colt was blanketed with roses.
The next day, Baffert answered questions regarding MEDINA SPIRIT and the Triple Crown.
"Can he win the Triple Crown? I don't know. But he's the Derby winner, and that's all that matters," Baffert said Sunday morning at Barn 33.
"I was coming in here, thinking, I wasn't sure (if MEDINA SPIRITcould win the Derby), everything had to go perfect for him. We were going to go to the lead, and see what happened. What if they challenged him? He made the lead pretty easily, for him, and the other speed horse didn't break (ROCK YOUR WORLD). That's what it's like in the Derby: You have to get the trip; the other speed horse didn't get the trip.
"Going down the backside, he was doing it easy, you could tell he was enjoying himself. His ears were forward. And turning for home, they came for him, and he just dug in. I didn't know if he was going to do it. He fought hard, and ran sort of the same race that he did at Santa Anita when he won the Robert Lewis. They came to him, and he fended them all off.
"I couldn't believe it, at the sixteenth pole he was fighting and fighting. It was just a thrill to watch him do it, and fight on.
"And he came back, he's handling it quite well. He wasn't as tired as I thought he might be. A big race like that, but he handled it quite well."
MEDINA SPIRIT had won the Robert Lewis Stakes earlier in the year in similar fashion — encountering an onslaught of challengers but refusing to forfeit the lead.
"When they turned for home, I was still not convinced," Baffert said. "We didn't start screaming and yelling until about the sixteenth pole, when it looked like it was do-able. In that last hundred yards, we all were screaming and yelling like it was my first Derby. We were like crazy, crazy. That's what the Derby does to you. There's no other race like it. The seven hasn't quite sunk in yet. And to do it with a $35,000 horse. It gives people hope, keeps their dreams alive. Actually he was the cheapest yearling, since he cost $1,000. But he's a beautiful horse, a good-looking horse.
"I stand here in front of you guys, and you don't know how much I appreciate winning this, especially as you get older. It gets tougher as you get older. ... I'd love to have 10 in there if I could, but you know that won't happen. To have one who has a chance. To win it with him, it's a Cinderella story, he's just a blue-collar horse, just digging in. He reminded me of SILVER CHARM...It's another Kentucky Derby dream that came true."
Baffert's first Kentucky Derby victory came in 1997 with his horse SILVER CHARM, who, like MEDINA SPIRIT, shows the same tenacity in stretch battles. Incidentally, they both finished second in their Santa Anita Derby prep race leading up to their Derby score.
"He came out of it well. It takes about a week to determine, so I'm going to come back next weekend and see," Baffert said. "But I don't see anything discouraging right now. CONCERT TOUR worked well this morning (five furlongs in 1:00.60 at 5:50), I'll sit down and talk to Mr. (Gary) West. He wants that horse to develop and we're not rushing things. We know he's a good horse, so we'll see next week how he is. The thing is how they're training. They both would have to be training well."
Updates on the rest of the Kentucky Derby competitors
MANDALOUN (2nd), ESSENTIAL QUALITY (4th) — Trainer Brad Cox's hand looked strong enough to win turning for home, having MANDALOUN breathing down the neck of MEDINA SPIRIT, while ESSENTIAL QUALITY was ranging up four wide for his run. Well, a day after digesting the outcome, he reflected on the result:
"It was a wild experience being in the Derby for the first time," Cox said. "In every previous Derby I've attended, I've been a fan. I've seen the media interviews, the playing of ‘My Old Kentucky Home' and everything leading up to the race. Being in the race, all of those things are sort of a blur. You're so focused on the job at hand. We were so grateful that both of our horses ran as well as they did. ESSENTIAL QUALITY got a tough trip being so wide but coming that close to a Derby win makes me want more. We'll be back."
HOT ROD CHARLIE (3rd) — Per usual, HOT ROD CHARLIE showed up to compete and did not fail to make an impact in the stretch. Trainer Doug O'Neill praised his consistent colt.
"We're just so proud of his effort," O'Neill said Sunday morning. "He ran a great race. He ate up last night and jogged fine this morning. It was all good."
He commented on the possible next start for "CHARLIE".
"We'll look to run him next in the Belmont Stakes (June 5 at New York's Belmont Park)," O'Neill said. "We'll get him back to California and start planning for that."
O BESOS (5th) — The son of ORB ran a brave race to finish fifth, beaten only five lengths by the winner.
"We're so proud of our horse," trainer Greg Foley said. "He came out of things good and we'll see what the plans are next. It's been a fun road to get to the Derby. We had a real chance and our horse showed up."
MIDNIGHT BOURBON (6th), SUPER STOCK (16th) — Trainer Steve Asmussen's chief assistance Scott Blasi reported that all was well with the two colts after the race.
KEEPMEINMIND (7th) — The son of LAOBAN was the slowest leaving the gate but closed well to finish seventh. Trainer Robertino Diodoro said his colt was doing fine Sunday morning.
"He came out of it well," jockey David Cohen said Sunday after KEEPMEINMIND had rallied widest of all from last in the field of 19 to miss getting a check by three lengths. "He ran back to how we want him to; he relaxed will and finished up strong. Without having to tip out and the loss of ground, he would've ran fifth."
HELIUM (8th), SOUP AND SANDWICH (19th) — Trainer Mark Casse's assistant David Carroll reported that the two colts were both back at the barn and doing fine after Saturday's race.
"Thankfully both horses came back fine," Carroll said. "Soup and Sandwich displaced during the race but was doing well this morning. I thought Helium ran his race and did well."
KNOWN AGENDA (9th), SAINTHOOD (11th), BOURBONIC (13th) and DYNAMIC ONE (18th) — Trainer Todd Pletcher noted that his entrants came out of Saturday's race no worse for the wear and they'd be headed back to New York at Belmont Park on Monday.
KNOWN AGENDA broke well but was shuffled back to the rear of the field and encountered traffic and kick-back for the rest of the run. The other three did not make much of a threat in the outcome.
HIGHLY MOTIVATED (19th) — Trainer Chad Brown's assistant trainer Whit Beckham said their colt came back from his run in good order. "We'll hopefully be back again soon," Beckman said.
LIKE THE KING (12th) — Trainer Wesley Ward was pleased with the experience and said his colt came back great, but will likely go for a surface switch. "He came back great and it was a great experience," Ward said, adding via text that LIKE THE KING'S next venture likely would be on the grass in five to six weeks.
HIDDEN STASH (14th) — Trainer Vicki Oliver commented on the son of CONSTITUTION's performance and post-race status. "He came back great, but he looked tired last night," Oliver said via text and indicating HIDDEN STASH would be getting a break for the time being. "He ran his race. Horses were in front of him and there was nowhere to go."
BROOKLYN STRONG (15th) — was bounced around at the break and took all of two furlongs to settle into stride. Trainer Danny Velazquez commented on the future of the son of Flatter. "I know it's crazy, but we never got a good showing," Velazquez said. "Slow break and then he got banged back to almost last. It's tough with 19 horses. No regrets. I had a great experience and we made it to the Derby with a $5,000 horse."
ROCK YOUR WORLD (17th) — After a disastrous break, ROCK YOUR WORLD was compromised from the desired, forwardly-placed position. "We had no chance after that," trainer John Sadler noted Sunday morning at Barn 43 on the Churchill Downs backside. "Disappointing is the word," Sadler added, discouraged by the fact that his horse never got a chance to run his race.
Assistant trainer Juan Leyva commented: "We just got left with a feeling of uncertainty," Leyva said. "It was so sad that we never got a chance to see what he could do." Sadler said ROCK YOUR WORLD will fly back to his Santa Anita barn on Tuesday.
"We'll get him home and regroup," Sadler stated. "At this point I don't know what we're going to do with him. But we'll come up with a plan."