By Harry Allison
You could have called yesterday’s Kentucky Derby:
The Battle of the Mud.
Pre-race favorite Justify won the 144th Derby, bursting past the competition on the far turn to make history.
Running on a sloppy track after , the undefeated speedster pulled away from the field at the 3/4-mile mark and extended to win the first leg of Triple Crown and end the Apollo Curse in the process.
Until his victory, not a single horse without a race as a 2-year-old had won the annual Run for the Roses since Apollo did it back in 1882.
“When he got away clean, I thought we had a chance,” Justify trainer Bob Baffert said on the NBC broadcast. “He was doing it easy. Him and (2015 winner) American Pharoah, they’re just cut from a different (cloth). I rank him up there with my top ones. This track really had me worried.”
Justify ran side by side with Promises Fulfilled, a 49-1 long shot, through the first half of the race but pulled into the lead and then extended down the back stretch to give Baffert, a Hall of Famer, his fifth win in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.
Good Magic finished second and Audible, the Florida Derby champion who held the enviable Post 5, took third.
Now it’s onto the second leg of the Triple Crown in two weeks where Baffert and his winning horse will look to win the Preakness.Three years ago, Baffert trained American Pharoah to the first sweep of the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 37 years and just the 12th ever.
The Kentucky Derby record for most wins by a trainer is within Baffert’s grasp, too, after the 65-year-old snapped a tie for second. He now trails only Ben Jones with six.
While Justify was up against history, the favorite won the Run for the Roses for the sixth year in a row, the longest such run since the 1970s. It was also the second Derby win for jockey Mike Smith, who at 52 is the second-oldest winning jockey. An announced crowd of 157,813 took in the rainiest Derby on record to see Justify win.
Kentucky Derby final results
|2.||Good Magic (9-1)|
|4.||Instilled Regard (85-1)|
|5.||My Boy Jack (6-1)|
|8.||Lone Sailor (24-1)|
|9.||Vino Rosso (14-1)|
|11.||Firenze Fire (59-1)|
|12.||Bolt D’oro (8-1)|
|15.||Promises Fulfilled (49-1)|
|16.||Free Drop Billy (45-1)|
|17.||Noble Indy (59-1)|
|19.||Magnum Moon (13-1)|