Justify wins 144th Kentucky Derby

Horse Racing

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Justify not only won the rainiest Kentucky Derby on record, but the colt lifted a 136-year-old curse while doing so.

Justify ran the 1¼ miles in 2:04.20, going the first half-mile in 45.77 seconds, and won by 2½ lengths on Saturday.

The horse ended the so-called Curse of Apollo, becoming the first horse since 1882 to win the Derby without racing as a 2-year-old.

The horses and jockeys were forced to navigate sloppy conditions at Churchill Downs in the first leg of the Triple Crown. More than 2.5 inches of rain had fallen in Louisville on Saturday, according to local meteorologists, making it the wettest Derby day ever.

The previous mark had been 2.31 inches, set on May 11, 1918.

“Amazing horse,” Justify’s jockey, Mike 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.”

Justify’s trainer, Bob Baffert, shared his assessment.

“When he got away clean, then I thought we had a chance,” Baffert said. “We had to get away. Then Mike took his time.”

The colt that began his racing career in February improved to 4-0 and gave Baffert his fifth Derby victory and Smith his second Derby triumph.

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.

Justify is the sixth consecutive favorite to win the Derby, extending the longest streak of favorites winning in race history. He is the ninth undefeated Kentucky Derby winner and is undefeated in four career starts.

Justify paid $7.80, $6 and $4.40. The victory was worth $1,432,000 to owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing and Head of Plains Partners. They bought Justify for $500,000.

Good Magic finished second and returned $9.20 and $6.60. Audible finished third and paid $5.80 to show.

Instilled Regard, an 85-1 shot, was fourth, followed by My Boy Jack, Bravazo and Hofburg. Lone Sailor was eighth, followed by Vino Rosso, Solomini, Firenze Fire, Bolt d’Oro, Flameaway, Enticed, Promises Fulfilled, Free Drop Billy, Noble Indy, Combatant and Magnum Moon. Mendelssohn, trying to become the first Europe-based horse to win the Derby, finished last, beaten by 73¼ lengths.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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