Medina Spirit wins over the horse racing world, including his record-setting trainer – Daily News


Amid a hail of torn-up tickets at Churchill Downs Saturday, the skeptics came around. The last one was the toughest.

“It was like he was telling me, ‘I’m better than you think I am,’’’ Bob Baffert said. “He was right. He is a hell of a lot better.”

Not since Mr. Ed has a horse been so perceptive.

Medina Spirit seized the lead early in the 147th Kentucky Derby and turned into the most obstinate bulldog that ever chewed a toy.

More favored horses kept attacking and Medina Spirit kept running, and at the end he held off Mandaloun and Hot Rod Charlie to win.

Baffert is his trainer. Normally he shows up in Louisville with a supergroup of horseflesh.

But Life Is Good got hurt, and Concert Tour wasn’t quite ready, and Spielberg hit the cutting-room floor. It was only Medina Spirit, sold originally for $1,000 and then to Saudi businessman Amr Zedan for $35,000.

And even though Medina Spirit had two firsts and three seconds in his previous races, and even though he wore the Baffert brand, he was a 12-1 choice.

“I’ve come in here with some heavy-duty horses and it’s more of a relief when they won,” Baffert said. “Here, I just really enjoyed myself. We were under the radar and I thought, you know, maybe we can get a piece of this.”

This might be the place to mention that Baffert has now won seven Derbys, including three of the past four, and four of the past seven, and that one of the most sacred laws in sports holds up again: Beware the champion underdog.

The seventh win breaks Baffert’s tie with Ben Jones, whose Derby winners included Whirlaway and Citation.

It was already a profitable day. Baffert’s $1.8 million filly, Gamine, won the Derby City Distaff, which gave Baffert the alltime record in Grade 1 stakes victories. Then Du Jour, owned by Baffert’s wife Jill, won the American Turf.


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