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Medina Spirit raced to victory in the Kentucky Derby, giving trainer Bob Baffert a record-setting seventh victory in the race.

Medina Spirit, ridden by John Velazquez, shot out to an early lead and held off challenges down the stretch to win in front of 51,838 spectators in the biggest US sporting event since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The victory was Hall of Fame jockey Velazquez’s fourth in the first race of the Triple Crown, which was rescheduled from September last year due to the pandemic to the first Saturday in May.

Baffert had doubts about his “little” horse’s chances going into the event, so he was surprised to see the dark bay three-year-old hold his pace for the 1-1/4-mile (2-kilometer) race on a fast dirt track.

“I knew he was training well, but I’m really, really surprised,” Baffert said.

“When I saw him with the easy lead, I expected these horses to come at him. But Johnny had him in a perfect spot, and if you have him on the lead, he’ll fight,” he said.

“I can’t believe he won this race. That little horse. It was all him, it was all guts. That little horse has a big heart.”

With Silver Charm, Baffert won the race for the first time in 1997. Two of his trainers, American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018, won the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, respectively, to complete the Triple Crown.

Baffert’s seventh victory in the race takes him past Ben A Jones, who trained six winners between 1938 and 1952. 

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Velazquez said the emotion that comes with winning “the most exciting two minutes in sports” has not diminished.

“What an incredible feeling. This doesn’t get old,” Velazquez said after the win.

Longshot Mandaloun was second, 5-1 Hot Rod Charlie was third and 5/2 favourite Essential Quality was forced to settle for fourth. 

Source: ABC World News

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