Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Justify conquered horrendous conditions on Saturday at Churchill Downs to become the latest favourite to win the Kentucky Derby.
The weather made the course a challenge for all the horses and jockeys, but Bob Baffert’s colt showed his class in the slop to make good on his pre-race billing.
Justify, who came home ahead of Good Magic and Audible, also broke the longstanding Apollo Curse, becoming the first horse since 1882 to win the Derby that hadn’t debuted as a two-year-old.
Here’s how things finished up in the 2018 Run for the Roses, the purses of the top five and a closer look at how the race played out.
Race Result (Purse), per NBC Broadcast
Win: ($ 1.24 million): Justify; Jockey: Mike Smith; Trainer: Bob Baffert
Place: ($ 400,000): Good Magic (-2 ½ lengths); Jockey: Jose Ortiz; Trainer: Chad Brown
Show: ($ 200,000): Audible (-2 ½ lengths); Jockey: Javier Castellano; Trainer: Todd Pletcher
4th: ($ 100,000): Instilled Regard (-4 ¼ lengths); Jockey: Drayden Van Dyke; Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
5th ($ 60,000): My Boy Jack (-7 lengths); Jockey: Kent Desormeaux; Trainer: J. Keith Desormeaux
6th: Bravazo (-8 lengths); Jockey: Luis Contreras; Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas
7th: Hofburg (-8 ¾ lengths); Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.; Trainer: William Mott
8th: Lone Sailor (-9 ¼ lengths); Jockey: James Graham; Trainer: Thomas Amoss
9th: Vino Rosso (-10 ½ lengths); Jockey: John Velazquez; Trainer: Todd Pletcher
10th: Solomini (-11 lengths); Jockey: Flavien Prat; Trainer: Bob Baffert
11th: Firenze Fire (-23 ½ lengths); Jockey: Paco Lopez; Trainer: Jason Servis
12th: Bolt d’Oro (-24 ¼ lengths); Jockey: Victor Espinoza; Trainer: Mick Ruis
13th: Flameaway (-30 ½ lengths); Jockey: Jose Lezcano; Trainer: Mark Casse
14th: Enticed (-34 ¾ lengths); Jockey: Junior Alvarado; Trainer: Kiaran McLaughlin
15th: Promises Fulfilled (-39 ¾ lengths); Jockey: Corey Lanerie; Trainer: Dale Romans
16th: Free Drop Billy (-41 lengths); Jockey: Robby Albarado; Trainer: Dale Romans
17th: Noble Indy (-42 ¼ lengths); Jockey: Florent Geroux; Trainer: Todd Pletcher
18th: Combatant (-42 ¾ lengths); Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.; Trainer: Steven Asmussen
19th: Magnum Moon (-49 ½ lengths); Jockey: Luis Saez; Trainer: Todd Pletcher
20th: Mendelssohn (-73 ¼ lengths); Jockey: Ryan Moore; Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
Here’s a look at how the race went, per NBC Sports:
NBC Sports @NBCSports
The Curse of Apollo is over! Justify is the winner of the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby. Watch the full race replay, presented by @rocketmortgage. #KyDerby https://t.co/CVkPSPlNhh
According to Covers, Justify crossed the line at a time of 2:04:20. As noted by sports journalist Eric Crawford, it was one of the slowest races there’s been for a long time:
Eric Crawford @ericcrawford
Justify’s final winning time time of 2:04.20 is the second slowest of the past 28 years. But the first quarter mile of this Derby was the sixth-fastest opening quarter in #KyDerby history. The opening half mile of 45.77 probably among the dozen fastest.
That’s no surprise, as the rain tipped down at Churchill Downs in the buildup to the Run for the Roses. Stamina, staying power and some luck was always going to be crucial in determining the eventual winner here.
A sound strategy was important, too, and Smith gave Justify an excellent ride. Going around the final turn, the favourite was nestled in a length behind Promises Fulfilled, and when both Bolt d’Oro and Good Magic made their move, he was up to the fight.
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press
In the end, it was a comfortable win for Baffert’s colt, as once he established a gap out front, there was nobody else in the field with the ability to respond to the raw speed of Justify.
As noted by AFP’s Michael Mathes, in the end both Justify and Smith made this one look easy as the rest of the field toiled in behind:
Any win in the Kentucky Derby is historic for those involved. For Baffert, it’s the fifth time he’s trained the winner of this race, and afterwards he said Justify is one of the best.
“I was just in awe of the performance,” said the legendary trainer, per Beth Harris of the Associated Press (h/t the Chicago Tribune). “He just put himself up there with the greats.”
Additionally, the win means the Apollo Curse has finally been banished, per ESPN’s Darren Rovell:
Darren Rovell @darrenrovell
Justify wins the Kentucky Derby having not raced as a two-year-old. Want a picture of the last horse who did that? Can’t do. I can do a drawing though — Apollo in 1882! https://t.co/6Zqf2GXYY3
It was an excellent display from Justify, who became the sixth favourite in succession to win the big race at Churchill Downs.
Having produced a spectacular display in such difficult circumstances here, the challenge for him now will be to go to the Preakness Stakes and keep alive hopes of a Triple Crown. Baffert trained American Pharoah, who achieved the remarkable feat three years ago.