Justify captures sloppy Derby
Lack of experience
no problem for colt
If you want to bust a racing curse, call Bob Baffert.
The white-haired trainer smashed a jinx that stood for 136 years when Justify splashed through the slop to win the Kentucky Derby by 21/2 lengths on Saturday.
Not since Apollo in 1882 had a colt won the roses without racing as a 2-year-old.
Now, Baffert is in position to make another run at the Triple Crown. Three years ago, he trained American Pharoah to the sport’s first sweep of the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 37 years and just the 12th ever.
Records and streaks are made to be a broken and Baffert is certainly on a tear.
The Derby record for most wins by a trainer is within Baffert’s grasp, too. With his fifth victory, the 65-year-old snapped a tie for second and trails only Ben Jones with six.
Justify is just as impressive. The imposing chestnut colt with the blaze running from his eyes to the tip of his nose improved to 4-0 — winning his races by a combined 211/2 lengths. The favorite won for the sixth year in a row, the longest such run since the 1970s.
Mike Smith earned his second Derby victory, becoming at 52 the second-oldest winning jockey. Bill Shoemaker was 54 when he won with Ferdinand in 1986.
Smith crossed the finish line at Churchill Downs with only a few specks of mud on his white and green silks in the rainiest Derby in the race’s 144-year history. Nearly 3 inches fell on the crowd of 157,813.
“Amazing horse,” Smith said. “He’s got that ‘it’ factor. He is so above average, he’s got unbelievable talent and he’s got a mind to go with it. He was loving this stuff.”