Justify put himself in the history books with his 2 ½-length win in the 144th Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Justify became the first Kentucky Derby winner since 1882 to win the Run for the Roses without making a start as a 2-year-old and is the second Derby winner for WinStar Farm, who co-owns the colt with China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Farm.
In a race full of stories, Justify captured the racing world with three wins in three starts prior to the Derby, ultimately making him the 5-2 favorite at post time on Saturday. After several hours of rain, the track at post time was rated sloppy. Justify broke very well and found himself in second, just behind Promises Fulfilled going into the first turn.
Despite a fast pace of :45.77 for the first half-mile, Justify was going along very easily under Mike Smith along side Promises Fulfilled. With a a half-mile to run Justify forged his way to the lead, then Good Magic made his run near the top of the stretch, but Justify pulled away once again under strong urging from Mike Smith to stake his claim among racing's champions.
“Going into the race the main concern was just getting him out of the gate,” said Smith. “This horse is so talented. I keep using the term ‘above average’ because he has a mind to him as well. It was a sigh of relief when I got him out of the gate and I just stayed out of his way. Bolt d’Oro came to my outside the first time by the wire and I figured if we were going fast up front, they’re going fast behind me as well.”
“We saw something really great. That’s greatness right there. When he won his second race we were in (American) Pharoah territory,” said trainer Bob Baffert, giving high praise as he compared his latest Derby winner to his 2015 Triple Crown Champion and Horse of the Year.
Justify is undefeated in four starts, winning the Santa Anita Derby (G1) in early April. His earnings now stand at $2,098,000.