Medina Spirit goes wire-to-wire to win 2021 Kentucky Derby

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Medina Spirit put up a wire-to-wire effort to win the 147th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

He set off at 12-1 odds and pushed the pace early. Mandaloun and Florent Geroux gave chase, but Medina Spirit outlasted him to the wire. Last year’s Champion 2-Year-Old Male and early Derby favorite Essential Quality finished in 4th.

This is a record seventh Kentucky Derby win for his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who also won last year’s Derby with Authentic.

“If you have him on the lead, he’ll fight,” Baffert told NBC Sports’ Kenny Rice after the race.

Baffert was previously tied with Ben Jones for most Derby wins by a trainer.

John Velazquez had the ride about 25 hours after winning the 147th Kentucky Oaks aboard Malathaat. Velazquez also rode Authentic to Derby victory last year. This is his fourth Kentucky Derby win.

The Florida-bred colt was originally bought for a mere $1,000 as a yearling before being purchased by Zedan Racing Stables last July.

Medina Spirit paid $26.20 to win, $12.00 to place and $7.60 to show. Mandaloun (26-1) paid $23.00 to place and $13.40 to show. Hot Rod Charlie (5-1) paid $5.20 to show.

Bourbonic, who finished 13th, was ridden by Kendrick Carmouche, the first Black Kentucky Derby jockey since 2013. 14th-place finisher Hidden Stash’s trainer Vicki Oliver was the first woman to saddle a Derby horse since 2015.

Mike Smith, who finished 6th aboard Midnight Bourbon, rode in his record-breaking 27th Kentucky Derby, ending the tie he held with legendary jockey Bill Shoemaker for most Derby rides of all time.

Medina Spirit is likely to be pointed to the Preakness Stakes next. The second leg of the Triple Crown sets off from Pimlico in two weeks on Saturday, May 15.

Full order of finish in the 2021 Kentucky Derby:

  1. Medina Spirit
  2. Mandaloun
  3. Hot Rod Charlie
  4. Essential Quality
  5. O Besos
  6. Midnight Bourbon
  7. Keepmeinmind
  8. Helium
  9. Known Agenda
  10. Highly Motivated
  11. Sainthood
  12. Like the King
  13. Bourbonic
  14. Hidden Stash
  15. Brooklyn Strong
  16. Super Stock
  17. Rock Your World
  18. Dynamic One
  19. Soup and Sandwich
  20. King Fury (SCRATCH)

Watch the Preakness on Saturday, May 15 from 2 to 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and from 5 to 7:15 p.m. ET on NBC. Coverage is also available on NBCSports.com and on the NBC Sports app. 

Flightline, Pletcher, Godolphin lead way at Eclipse Awards

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Pat McDonogh/USA TODAY NETWORK
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PALM BEACH, Fla. — Flightline ran away in all six of his races, and ran away with top honors at the Eclipse Awards on Thursday night.

And trainer Todd Pletcher, for the first time in nearly a decade, received the sport’s top prize as well.

Flightline – the now-retired winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic to cap an unbeaten six-race career – won Horse of the Year as well as the Eclipse as top Older Dirt Male. It was no surprise that Flightline took home both awards, and he’s now standing stud.

“We’ll hope that his future is as bright as his past,” co-owner Kosta Hronis said.

Godolphin was also a double winner, sweeping the Eclipses as top owner and top breeder for the second consecutive year. It was also the third consecutive top-owner Eclipse for Godolphin.

“This is truly a golden era for Godolphin racing,” said Michael Banahan, the stable’s director of bloodstock. “And these awards and accolades recognize how special it is.”

It was Pletcher’s eighth Eclipse, extending his record for the most by any trainer, and his first since 2014. It was one of the few close races in the voting; Pletcher got 108 first-place votes, while four-time Eclipse winner Chad Brown got 95 and finished second.

“This really is not an individual award. This is a team award,” Pletcher said. “This is an award about the owners, and most importantly, the horses.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. won the Eclipse as top jockey for the fourth time in the last five years; he tied Pat Day and Javier Castellano for third-most in history, behind only seven-time winner Jerry Bailey and five-time winner Laffit Pincay Jr.

Ortiz led all jockeys with more than $37 million in purses in 2022.

“Wow,” Ortiz said. “It’s been an amazing year for me.”

Forte won the Eclipse as 2-year-old male, and will enter this year’s Triple Crown season as one of the early favorites.

“We’re all in this game for a horse like Forte,” said Mike Repole, the horse’s co-owner along with Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola and Teresa Viola. “We’re all in this game to one day maybe own a 2-year-old that has a chance. It’s great to have the Kentucky Derby favorite. … Forte’s an incredible horse.”

Epicenter won the 3-year-old male Eclipse, after running second at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, then winning the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga over the summer.

Wonder Wheel was the winner as 2-year-old filly, while Nest won the Eclipse in the 3-year-old filly division. Malathaat was the Eclipse winner for older dirt female, Goodnight Olive for female sprinter and Regal Glory for female turf horse.

Elite Power was picked as the top male sprinter, Modern Games won the Eclipse for male turf horse, and Hewick was the Eclipse winner in the steeplechase division.

Jose Antonio Gomez won as top apprentice jockey.

The Eclipse Awards are voted on by members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.

Trainer Bob Baffert’s ban from racing in New York is over

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Courier Journal/USA TODAY Sports
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Bob Baffert can once again enter horses at New York’s major tracks.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s one-year ban by the New York Racing Association ended Wednesday, allowing him to enter horses as soon as Thursday.

“I was disappointed they even did it, but it’s water under the bridge,” Baffert told The Associated Press by phone.

He was suspended last June for repeated medication violations, although none of them occurred in New York. He was barred from Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. A panel credited Baffert for time served for an initial suspension, which allowed him to return this week.

Aqueduct is currently holding its 44-day winter meet that runs through March 26. Baffert doesn’t typically run horses this time of year in New York; he targets the biggest stakes races at Belmont in the spring and Saratoga in the summer.

Baffert remains under a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc., which sidelined him after Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that is not allowed on race day. The penalty expires shortly after the Kentucky Derby in May. However, Baffert is fighting the suspension in federal court.

The Southern California-based trainer has a big weekend coming up around the country, although not in New York.

He has horses running at three tracks on Saturday.

Defunded is entered in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in Florida, where Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes will be on hand.

Arabian Knight goes into the $750,000 Southwest Stakes as the early favorite at Oaklawn in Arkansas. Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby prep race a record-tying five times and will travel to Hot Springs to watch the 3-year-old colt.

“It’s going to be a good test for him. The only way to find out is to run him long,” he said. “It’s going to take a superior horse to do that and I’m hoping that he is.”

The Southwest offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top five finishers. Arabian Knight won’t receive any points regardless of his placing because of Baffert’s Derby ban.

Hopper will run in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

On Sunday at the same track, Baffert has entered four of the five horses set to run in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds.