Justify Wins ‘Run in the Mud’ at Churchill Downs
Saturday afternoon, favorite Justify won the 144th Kentucky Derby, now the 1st horse in 136 years to win the race after not competing as a 2-year-old.
Justify had only 3 starts entering the race, but was a 7-2 favorite to win. No horse since Apollo in Y 1882 had ever won without racing as a juvenile.
The colt began his racing career in February, and improved to 4-0 giving trainer Bob Baffert, 65 anni, his 5th Kentucky Derby victory, he trails Ben Jones with 6.
Jockey Mike Smith, 52 anni, earned his 2nd Derby victory, as he crossed the finish line at Churchill Downs with only a few specks of mud on his white and green silks in the wettest Derby in the race’s 144-year history. Nearly 3 ins fell on the crowd of 157,813 during the day.
The National Weather Service declared it the wettest Kentucky Derby on record, and the rain was still coming down as the race started.
It was reported that the rainfall Saturday edged out the previous record of 2.31 ins, which held for 100 years since 11 May 1918, it was the wettest 5 May in Louisville history.
Racing in his third career start, which began at age 3, Justify lived up to anticipated hype in his stakes debut, capturing the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) April 7 to earn 100 Road to the Kentucky Derby points and secure his spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby May 5 at Churchill Downs.
In an impressive performance, Justify confidently handled a strong Bolt d’Oro, beating his rival by 3-lenghts to return $3.80 as the slight 4-5 odds favorite. He ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.72 over a Santa Anita surface that trainer Bob Baffert said was deep and playing slow all afternoon.
Justify is on his way to becoming a Kentucky Derby favorite, as he recorded a 114 BRIS Speed Figure in the Santa Anita Derby, which is the highest in the six-season history of the Kentucky Derby Points system. Being highly-regarded, he finished as the top horse in Pool 4 of the final Kentucky Derby Future Wager that closed April 7, at 3-1 odds.
Hiding below the surface for Justify is the attempt to overcome the curse of Apollo, who was the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby as an unraced 2-year-old more than 130 years ago in 1882. But, jockey Mike Smith says Justify is just scratching the surface as a raw talent with much room to grow.
Bred in Kentucky, Justify was a $500,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase by China Horse Club and Maverick Racing. His sire is Scat Daddy, who died in 2015 at the young age of 11. Scat Daddy has had success as an internationally prominent sire, but has yet to sire a winner in the American Triple Crown series. He’ll have a good chance this year as the sire of Justify, Flameaway and Mendelssohn, all scheduled to start in the Kentucky Derby.
Have a terrific weekend