John Velazquez rides Medina Spirit to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs
John Velazquez rides Medina Spirit to win the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Godolphin will have to wait another year in their quest to win the Kentucky Derby after Essential Quality finished fourth behind Medina Spirit in the great American Classic on Saturday.

Sent off as the hot favourite to give the Dubai-owned stable an elusive first success in the race that is described as the ‘most exciting two minutes in sport’ Essential Quality ran a huge race under Luis Saez but came up short in the closing stages when caught for speed.

The Godolphin homebred by Tapit crossed the line a length behind the front three of Medina Spirit (John Velasquez), Mandaloun (Florent Geroux) and Hot Red Charlie (Flavien Prat).

The winner provided America Hall of Famer trainer Bob Baffert a record-breaking seventh Kentucky Derby victory. With the win the 67-year-old Baffert eclipses Ben Jones. 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 as Baffert’s previous winners of the Churchill Downs Classic.

The win also gave jockey Velazquez his fourth Kentucky Derby victory, taking him to second place behind the all-time record shared by jockeys Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack.

“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?’” Baffert told NBC Sports.

Commenting on the record seventh win, Baffert paid tribute to his team and added: “That means I was surrounded by great, great people. You can’t win it without being surrounded by great assistants, gallop boys. It’s moments like this that we live for.”

Velazquez was overcome by emotion and said: “There’s no words to describe it. This doesn’t get old.”

Essential Quality may have seen his hopes of realising Godolphin’s dream when he was bumped twice after leaving stalls before he gathered himself to race in a prominent position on the outside of the 19-horse field. Saez pushed him along to hold a stalking position but he drifted wide into the straight before staying on under pressure in the final furlong.