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Medina Spirit wins the 147th Kentucky Derby

Trainer Bob Baffert now has a record seven derby wins.
John Velazquez, right, rides Medina Spirit ahead of Florent Geroux aboard Mandaloun to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday in Louisville, Ky.Darron Cummings / AP

Medina Spirit won the 2021 Kentucky Derby on Saturday, giving trainer Bob Baffert a record seven derby wins.

The jockey was John R. Velazquez, four time Derby winner born in Puerto Rico.

"There’s no words to describe it," he said. "This doesn’t get old."

Medina Spirit started in the lead and never ceded much ground during the race. Mandaloun was second and Hot Rod Charlie was third.

Baffert, a two-time Triple Crown winner based in Southern California, said after the race, "I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I’ll tell you that little horse has got a heart."

The three-year-old horse was purchased as a yearling for $1,000 and then again in 2020 for $35,000, small money for the high-stakes Derby.

"He doesn't know how much he cost," Baffert said. "I knew he was training well, but I'm really surprised."

The horse was not a top favorite for the first of the year's Triple Crown races.

Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, was packed with guests in fancy outfits and oversized hats under sunny skies, amid 75-degree weather, for the 147th running of the Derby.

Attendance was an estimated 51,838, making it the largest crowd at a sporting event in the United States since the pandemic began, Derby officials said.

The iconic horse race — often called the most exciting two minutes in sports — returned to its usual first Saturday in May after the Covid-19 pandemic delayed last year's event to September and caused the race to run without fans.

Dr. Sarah Moyer with the Louisville Department of Health said organizers were taking proper precautions to ensure that people could safely enjoy this year's event.

"We're in a much different place than we were a year ago. And we know how Covid is spread and so just encouraging the masks and the spacing and most importantly vaccination for those that aren't vaccinated," she said in an interview.

Moyer encouraged attendees to get tested for the coronavirus once they return home so any potential spread can be quickly stopped.

The Derby, known as the Run for the Roses, is the longest-running sporting event in the United States, according to its website. It dates back to 1875.

Image: 147th Kentucky Derby preparation at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
Fans celebrate the finish of a race at Churchill Downs on the day before the running of 147th Kentucky Derby on April 30, 2021.Bryan Woolston / Reuters

This year's race had 19 horses after trainer Kenny McPeek announced on Twitter that his horse, King Fury, was scratched from the game due to a high fever and elevated white count.

"It's unfortunate but we'll rebound and keep at it," McPeek said in a video message. "King Fury will be fine."

The favorite horse was Essential Quality. The gray colt was named Champion 2-Year-Old Male and most recently took the G2 Blue Grass at Keeneland, according to NBC Sports.

There has been a bit of controversy, however, surrounding the horse after a complaint was leveled against its owner, United Arab Emirates Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Lawyer Lisa Bloom said in a tweet Saturday that the ruler is allegedly holding his adult daughters hostage and that the Kentucky Derby rejected her complaint.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) said in a statement that it received the complaint on Wednesday.

"In consultation with counsel, and according to Kentucky regulations, the KHRC has determined the complaint does not articulate a violation of KHRC regulations," the statement read.

Godolphin LLC, a thoroughbred breeding operation founded by the prime minister, did not immediately return an emailed request for comment Saturday.

Another top horse included Rock Your World, NBC Sports reported.

The second leg of the Triple Crown is scheduled to take place May 15 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.