LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Medina Spirit's surprising Kentucky Derby victory on Saturday gave Bob Baffert a good problem to have — figuring out where to hang another sign on his barn's already crowded wall of glory.
As the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame trainer digests a record seventh "Run for the Roses" win that caught even him off guard, he and the horse's connections must determine whether the dark brown colt will turn around quickly for the 146th Preakness Stakes on May 15 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, where a collection of rested horses and revenge-minded competitors await.
"He came out of it well," Baffert said Sunday morning at Churchill Downs. "It takes about a week to determine, so I'm going to come back next weekend and see. I don't see anything that would discourage me right now."
Similar decisions loomed on the backside a day after the 147th Kentucky Derby returned to its traditional first Saturday in May date and allowed fans back in a reduced capactiy. Last year's race was held without spectators in early September after being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shorter than the Kentucky Derby at 1 3/16 miles, the Preakness sets up well for horses that skipped the Triple Crown series opener. It also offers a chance for redemption for competitors that fell short to Medina Spirit.
Trainer Doug O'Neill said third-place finisher Rock Your World would not be among them; he's looking instead to run the Triple Crown finale — the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes on June 5 at Elmont Park in New York.
Meanwhile, Brad Cox planned to talk with connections for runner-up Mandaloun and 5-2 Derby favorite Essential Quality, the fourth-place horse. Though disappointed not to win in his first Kentucky Derby, the Louisville-born trainer was encouraged by both of his entrants finishing in the top four of the 19-horse field.
After a head-scratching sixth in the Louisiana Derby, Mandaloun provided a pleasant surprise Saturday by chasing Medina Spirit down the stretch before falling half a length short. Cox insisted Essential Quality was the race's best horse and just created extra distance for himself in the turns trying to contend.
"He ran a huge race, very proud of his effort, he and Mandaloun," Cox said. "He was fourth best at a mile and a quarter. He lost a lot of ground around both turns."
Asked if he desired to run the Preakness, Cox said: "I have a desire if I feel like my horses are doing really well. I just really have to base it off of them."
Baffert might throw another one of his pupils into the Preakness mix.
He preceded his availability with reporters by working out a couple of horses, including Concert Tour, the third-place finisher in the Arkansas Derby. A decision by owners Gary and Mary West looms for the colt with three wins.
In the meantime, Baffert basked in the afterglow of Medina Spirit's biggest victory.
His lone entrant was somewhat under the radar at 12-1 odds after consecutive second-place finishes, including one against Rock Your World in the Santa Anita Derby. Medina Spirit quickly set the line behind him and didn't relent despite pressure, covering the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.02.
The two-time Triple Crown winner was careful not to make any projections about his latest Kentucky Derby champ. Baffert briefly paraded Medina Spirit in front of a gathering outside his barn, then led him inside for a well-deserved rest before his next chapter.
"It was just a thrill to watch him do it and fight on," Baffert said. "He came back, he's handling it quite well. He wasn't as tired as I thought he might be. A big race like that, but he handled it quite well."