Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
For some sports aficionados, the most exciting two minutes in sports this past weekend was when their team was on the clock for its first selection in the 2021 NFL draft.
However, for horse racing fans, casual bettors and the sartorially inclined, the marquee event of the weekend was the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby, which returned to its traditional spot on the first Saturday in May to kick off the Triple Crown.
In 2020, the race was held in September with no fans in attendance after being postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the race was back on its usual billing, and a limited capacity crowd was allowed into Churchill Downs to watch the action unfold.
And there was action. None of the top three favorites heading into the race (Essential Quality, Hot Rod Charlie, Rock Your World) finished first. That honor went to Medina Spirit, who had 15-1 odds ahead of the Run for the Roses.
With the win, Medina Spirit earned not only the coveted rose garland, but also the even-more-coveted lion’s share of this year’s $3 million prize purse (the same as it was in 2019 and 2020). The dark bay colt and jockey John R. Velazquez earned their ownership $1.86 million.
Let’s take a closer look at the full results list, the payouts for the horses who finished in the top five (among whom the purse is split) and what the key stakeholders involved had to say.
Kentucky Derby 2021 Results and Payouts (Owner; Jockey)
1. Medina Spirit (Zedan Racing Stables Inc; John Velazquez): $1.86 million
2. Mandaloun (Juddmonte Farms [Khalid Abdullah]; Florent Geroux): $600,000
3. Hot Rod Charlie (Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, LLC and Strauss Bros Racing; Flavien Prat): $300,000
4. Essential Quality (Godolphin, LLC; Luis Saez): $150,000
5. O Besos (Bernard, L. Barrett, Tagg Team Racing and West Point Thoroughbreds; Marcelino Pedroza): $90,000
6. Midnight Bourbon
9. Known Agenda
10. Highly Motivated
12. Like The King
14. Hidden Stash
15. Brooklyn Strong
16. Super Stock
17. Rock Your World
18. Dynamic One
19. Soup and Sandwich
In a thrilling finish, Medina Spirit had just a half-length victory over second-place finisher Mandaloun, making for the closest Derby finish since 2005, when Giacomo beat Closing Argument by the same distance.
With the win, Bob Baffert set a high-water mark by becoming the trainer with the most race wins in the 147-year history of the Derby. His seventh victory broke a previous tie of six with Bob Jones.
“Turning for home, they came to him and he dug in,” Baffert said Sunday of Medina Spirit, per Jason Frakes of the Louisville Courier Journal (h/t USA Today Sports). “I didn’t know if he was still going to do it, but he just dug in and fought hard. … After the race (jockey John Velazquez) said, ‘He showed me a gear that I didn’t know that he has.’ Just the way he did it and the way he kept on going, he was just pretty exciting.”
Of course, with the Derby back on its traditional schedule of being the first leg of the Triple Crown in May, talk has turned to whether Baffert will run Medina Spirit in the upcoming Preakness Stakes on May 15 and go for a potential Triple Crown win.
“Right now, I don’t see anything that would discourage me,” Baffert said, per Frakes. “He came back and acted like he handled it pretty well. He wasn’t as tired as I thought he was. After a big race like that, they’re pretty tired. But he handled it pretty well.”
If Medina Spirit does run the Preakness Stakes, he’ll face some familiar competitors. Derby runner-up Mandaloun and the odds-on Derby favorite, Essential Quality, could both be there, as the trainer of both Brad Cox said on TVG Network on Sunday.
“I have a desire to go if my horses are doing really well,” Cox said.
If Baffert and Velazquez (and Medina Spirit himself, of course) are successful at the Preakness Stakes, Baffert will earn his eighth victory there, while Velazquez will secure his first.
Velazquez’s weekend win marked his fourth at the Derby; the all-time record is a tie for five between jockeys Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack.
“There’s no words to describe it,” Velazquez said, per Jordan Freiman of CBS News. “This doesn’t get old.”