And while the conditioner was humbled by the moment, more than luck most assuredly is involved as the 68-year-old trainer has won the Derby with eventual Triple Crown winners, favorites and longshots, high-priced runners, and bargain colts.
With the seventh win, Baffert passes Ben Jones to become the record holder. Medina Spirit follows Authentic last year, Justify in 2018, American Pharoah in 2015, War Emblem in 2002, Real Quiet in 1998, and Silver Charm in 1997. Justify and American Pharoah went on to sweep the Triple Crown.
Amr Zedan, owner of Medina Spirit, said Racing Hall of Famer Baffert is much more than lucky. He said training horses is not a job for Baffert but rather something close to artistic expression.
“With Bob it’s like Michelangelo or Pablo Picasso; it just comes out naturally,” Zedan said. “And you don’t find that in people a lot. … You can’t by coincidence be a seven-time Derby winner; win two Triple Crowns.”
Ben Jones won the Derby a half-dozen times from 1938-1952 with Lawrin (1938), Whirlaway (1941), Pensive (1944), Citation (1948), Ponder (1949), and Hill Gail (1952). The final five of those winners were owned by Calumet Farm. Whirlaway and Citation swept the Triple Crown.
Baffert said he never thought he’d be moving to the top of that list.
“It’s one of those things that I’ve never been one to keep score and track of records and stuff,” Baffert said. “The seven wins; it’s like I can’t believe I won two. Every time we’ve won, we’ve looked at each other and said, ‘Can you believe we’ve won the Kentucky Derby again?'”
One thing Baffert most assuredly doesn’t mind is his horses being on the lead in the crowded field of the Derby. Medina Spirit is the third Baffert-trained runner to win the 1 1/4-mile classic in front-running fashion following Authentic and War Emblem. Eventual Triple Crown winner Justify pressed Promises Fulfilled early before seizing the lead and delivering a 2 1/2-length score.
How big was Saturday for Baffert? Earlier on the day Baffert moved past trainer D. Wayne Lukas as the conditioner of the most grade 1 winners at 220 when Gamine scored in the Derby City Distaff Stakes Presented by Kendall-Jackson Winery (G1). His 221st grade 1 win was the record-breaking Derby.
“That means I was surrounded by great, great people,” Baffert said of the record. “You can’t win it without being surrounded by great assistants, gallop boys. … It’s moments like this that we live for.”