Justify Flashes Sensational Speed over Sloppy Track to Win Kentucky Derby
The “Curse of Apollo” has ended. Un-raced at age 2, Justify won his fourth straight race in 2018, this time delivering a dominating win in America’s most prestigious race. The 144th Kentucky Derby was thought to be one of the most competitive fields in decades. Justify proved he was easily the best of the bunch. The beautiful beast known as ‘Big Red’ would not be denied as rain showers turned the Churchill Downs track into a sloppy surface. Many in the media are already calling Justify the next Triple Crown winner.
“He’s the most beautiful horse. He is a specimen of a horse. . . .,” said trainer Bob Baffert, who now stands second with five Derby victories. “I’ve seen all kinds, I mean this guy, he’s just special. He has that presence about him.”
Justify improved to 4-0 and became the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win without racing as a 2-year-old. Jockey Mike Smith earned his 2nd Derby victory, and the 52-year old is the second oldest rider to win the Kentucky Derby.
“I’ve never been on a 3-year-old like this,” Smith said. That’s saying something, as Smith has ridden 24 horses in the Kentucky Derby during his Hall of Fame career. “He’s so athletic. He gets over the ground so easy, he’s able to keep running. It takes a lot to try and keep up with him, and then you’ve got to try and run him down after that.”
Justify broke cleanly from the gate and then tracked pacesetter Promises Fulfilled through a swift opening quarter in :22.24 seconds. Jockey Mike Smith kept Justify moving towards the far turn after a sizzling half mile in :45.77 seconds and six furlongs in 1:11.01. After charging ahead at the final turn, the undefeated chestnut colt held off Good Magic, finishing in front by 2 1/2 lengths in 2 minutes 4.20 seconds. Audible was a head back in 3rd with huge long shot Instilled Regard 4th to complete the $1 superfecta of $19,618. My Boy Jack was steadied twice before reaching the far turn and finished with a flourish to get fifth.
Justify went off at as the betting favorite at 5-2 and returned $7.80 for the win while earning $1,432,000 for his connections as the Kentucky Derby winner. Good Magic (9-1) paid $9.80 to place and Audible (7-1) returned $5.80 to show. The $2 exacta returned $69.60 and the $2 trifecta paid $282.80.
The post-time favorite won Kentucky Derby for the sixth year in a row, the longest such run since the 1970s. Nearly 3 inches of rain fell throughout the day making it the rainiest Kentucky Derby ever in the 144th edition of the Run for the Roses. More than 157,000 fans were at Churchill Downs to witness Justify joining the ranks of Derby winners. But this one was quite special.
“We just saw one of the most incredible Derby performances,” trainer Bob Baffert said following the race.
The Kentucky Derby replay and call of the race by track announcer Larry Collmus.