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Justify Wins 144th Kentucky Derby

Published: May 5, 2018 9:02 pm ET

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A horse with ties to Canada, Justify - owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners - took command at the half-mile pole and roared away to a two-and-one-half lengths victory over Good Magic under the lights at Churchill Downs to win the 144th running of the $2,192,000 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) for three-year-olds on a soggy Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 157,813, the seventh largest crowd in Derby history.

Justify, sent the 5/2 favourite, became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old since Apollo in 1882. He made his debut Feb. 18 and only one other Derby winner broke his maiden at a later date: Brokers Tip when he won the Derby on May 6, 1933.

He also became the second horse in the past 100 years to win the Derby with only three career starts prior to the race, the first being Big Brown in 2008.

Justify gave trainer Bob Baffert his fifth Kentucky Derby victory and jockey Mike Smith his second.

Baffert now trails only Ben Jones, who has won six Derbys. Baffert’s other victories came with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002) and Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah (2015).

Smith’s other Derby victory came in 2005 with Giacomo.

Starlight becomes the first Louisville ownership group to win the Derby since Old Rosebud in 1914.

Promises Fulfilled led the field of 20 through the first six furlongs with fractions of :22.24, :45.77 and 1:11.01 with Justify in closest pursuit.

Approaching the half-mile pole, Smith pulled the trigger and sent Justify to the front, with last year’s champion two-year-old Good Magic taking up the chase.

Justify maintained his daylight advantage through the stretch and completed the one-and-one-quarter miles on a sloppy track in 2:04.20.

The victory was worth $1,432,000 and increased Justify’s earnings to $2,098,000 with an unblemished record of four wins in four starts. Justify became the first undefeated Derby winner since Nyquist in 2016 and the ninth since 1915.

Justify is a Kentucky-bred son of Scat Daddy out of the Ghostzapper mare Stage Magic. He was bred by Glenwood Farms, owned by John Gunther, a resident of Langley, British Columbia, who was inducted into the British Columbia Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.

In becoming a record-extending sixth consecutive favourite to win the Run for the Roses, Justify returned $7.80, $6.00 and $4.40. Good Magic, ridden by Jose Ortiz, returned $9.20 and $6.60 and finished a head in front of Audible, who paid $5.80 to show under Javier Castellano.

Instilled Regard rallied to finish another one-and-three-quarter lengths back in fourth and was followed in order by My Boy Jack, Bravazo, Hofburg, Lone Sailor, Vino Rosso, Solomini, Firenze Fire, Bolt d’Oro, Flameaway, Enticed, Promises Fulfilled, Free Drop Billy, Noble Indy, Combatant, Magnum Moon and Mendelssohn.

(With files from Churchill Downs)

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