2018 Kentucky Derby Contenders: Justify
Justify on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard
Making only his third lifetime start, the Santa Anita Derby on April 7 was Justify's one-and-only chance to score Derby qualifying points. He didn't leave any room for error, winning the race and the 100 points, clinching a Derby spot and putting him in a tie with Mendelssohn for seventh spot on the qualifying leaderboard.
Justify Race Record
Trained by Bob Baffert, Justify made his racing debut as a three year old less than two months ago. He went wire-to-wire to win his maiden race by 9 1/2 lengths over seven furlongs at Santa Anita, blazing the first half-mile in just over 44 seconds, and getting the 3/4 mile in a very fast 1:09 flat. He made his second start just three weeks later and won again at Santa Anita at one mile, despite not getting away from the gate all that well.
He then came to the SA Derby, where he again broke on the lead, set an unhurried pace and then turned back the challenge of top Kentucky Derby contender and multiple graded-stakes winner Bolt d' Oro in the stretch to win by a comfortable three lengths.
A half-brother to both Mendelssohn and Derby runner Flameaway, Justify's sire was Scat Daddy, the winner of a pair of Grade 1 stakes and five of nine races for his career, who finished 18th in the 2007 Kentucky Derby. Scat Daddy's sire was Johannasburg, who won the 2001 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Justify's dam is Stage Magic, who was 0-for-six racing at the stakes level, but did win going 1 1/16 miles at the allowance level, and three of 12 lifetime. His damsire, Ghostzapper, won the 2004 Breeders' Cup Classic and three other Grade 1 stakes.
Why Justify Can Win the Kentucky Derby
In the modern era, the "not-raced-at-two" thing seems less relevant. Most of the colts in the Derby will be making only their fifth or sixth lifetime start, and third of the year. Justify will be making his fourth, all this year. There's no good reason one level of experience should have so much significance over the other. If he breaks well, his front-running style should keep him out of trouble in the big Derby field, and he has good acceleration in the stretch. His pedigree suggests he should have no problem handling the 1 1/4 mile distance.
Why Justify Can't Win the Kentucky Derby
He has yet to have to face and overcome any real pressure. He was left alone on the lead in the Santa Anita to set some fairly easy fractions, and his first two lifetime races were walkovers, but he's going to have to deal with several others wanting the early lead at Churchill. Despite battling Bolt d'Oro in the stretch, the final time of the race was only a few hundredths of a seconds faster than Vino Rosso won the Wood Memorial on the same day on a much slower track, and slower than Audible won the Florida Derby at the same distance a week before. And maybe there is something to that 135-year-old curse....
Justify's Kentucky Derby Odds
Sitting at 4-1 on Bovada's Kentucky Derby future bets list, Justify is widely expected to be the post-time favorite for the Derby, and is likely to go off at odds of 3-1 or even 5-2. So if you think his talent is enough to overcome his lack of experience, now might be the time to get down your wager to win.
See Also: Kentucky Derby Betting Picks: Audible
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