Medina Spirit: First Derby Winner from Florida in 24 Years
Saturday, May 1, 2021

    Medina Spirit made the First Saturday in May an 'affair to remember' for Florida's thoroughbred community, winning the 147th Kentucky Derby with a gutty performance and giving trainer Bob Baffert his record seventh victory in the world's most famous race, and jockey John Velazquez his fourth.

    It also gave Kentucky breeders apoplexy.

    A 3-year-old son of  Protonico, Medina Spirit follows in the footsteps of Florida-breds Needles (1956), Carry Back (1961), Foolish Pleasure (1975), Affirmed (1978), Unbridled (1990) and Silver Charm (1997) and is the first from the state to win since Silver Charm's victory. Baffert was also the trainer of Silver Charm.

    Medina Spirit was bred by Ocala's Gail Rice, and sold for just $1,000 to Christy Whitman at the OBS Winter sale in 2019 out of the consignment of Summerfield Sales. The Whitmans then pin-hooked him into the OBS July 2-year-old sale last year and he was purchased for $35,000 by Zedan Racing Stables, in whose colors he won today at odds of 12-1.

    Medina Spirit went into the Derby with two victories and three seconds under his belt racing strictly in California. He broke his maiden at odds of 3-1 in December racing 5 1/2 furlongs at Los Alamitos and later won the Gr. I Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with the Derby third-place finisher, Hot Rod Charlie, finishing a close third that day, too.

    Baffert's colt's second-place finishes came in the Gr. I Santa Anita Derby, Gr. II San Felipe and Gr. III Sham. His record is now 3-3-0 in six starts and today's $1,860,000 bonanza raised his total to $2,175,200.

    Velazquez put Median Spirit on the lead down the long stretch the first time around and kept the field at bay with a quarter in :23.09, a half in :46.70 and six furlongs in 1:11.21, with fellow Florida-bred Soup and Sandwich stalking in second with Tyler Gaffalione. When Soup and Sandwich began to back up, Florent Geroux took over the second spot with 26-1 Mandaloun and they remained glued that way all the way to the wire, with Medina Spirit prevailing by half a length. Hot Rod Charlie came on for third with Flavien Prat and had every chance to win it, but fell short by a length in the driving finish. Essential Quality, the 5/2 favorite, was fourth with Luis Saez, a head behind Hot Rod Charlie.

    The race went in 2:01.02 and produced some juicy payoffs for the long shot players. The $2 8-7 exacta returned $503.60, and the 50-cent 8-7-9 trifecta paid $848.45. The $1 superfecta - 8-7-9-14 - came back $9,456.40. 

    The wagering pools were astronomical: win-place-show ($69,432,825); exacta ($22,218,094); trifecta ($30,501,566) and superfecta ($13,933,415). The total all-sources handle for the day reached $233 million, second-best of all time behind 2019's $250.9 million. On the Derby alone, the handle was $155.4 million, also second-best to 2019's $165.5 million. The limited attendance totaled 51,838 after last year's sorry, no visitors edict. 

    A check of the official Equibase chart shows there was very little movement for the entire mile and a quarter. The best finish from the also-rans came from Keepmeinmind with David Cohen; the 49-1 shot rallied from 19th after three-quarters to finish seventh, about eight lengths behind the winner. 

    Now it's on to Pimlico with the obligatory, but useless, two-week speculation revolving around a Florida Triple Crown.  






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