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Jockey Mike Smith and Justify parade for the fans after winning the Kentucky Derby
The 144th running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve was contested on the first Saturday in May. This was billed as the wettest Derby on record, as about 5 inches of rain fell through the day, soaking the main track to sloppy with many of the 157,813 fans in attendance donning ponchos, with the temperature a chilly 63 degrees when the field was sent away from the gate, in stark contrast to the 80 degree heat on Oaks day.
With no scratches, the originally drawn field of 20 all went to the starting gate for this 1 1/4 mile classic, with the also-eligible Blended Citizen excluded from competition. As expected Justify was sent off as the 11-4 favorite, undefeated in his 3 lifetime starts all this season including the Santa Anita Derby (G1) for his final prep. In to challenge him for the Garland of Roses included 6-1 second choice My Boy Jack, winner of the Lexington (G3) ater finishing third in the Louisiana Derby (G2), and 13-2 third choice Mendelssohn, winner of the UAE Derby (G2) and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). 7-1 Audible, winner of the Florida Derby (G1) rounded out the top 4 favorites.
Justify leads down the stretch.
Justify wins the Kentucky Derby
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 7 Justify Smith 7.80 6.00 4.40 6 Good Magic Ortiz 9.20 6.60 5 Audible Castellano 5.80 Winning Time: 2:04.20 $2 Exacta 7-6 69.60 $2 Trifecta 7-6-5 141.40 $1 Superfecta 7-6-5-15 19,618.20 $1 Super Hi-5 7-6-5-15-10 183,580.20 $2 Oaks/Derby Double 14-7 16.60
Left: Justify parades with the Garland of Roses. Winning jockey Mike Smith, celebrating just his second Derby win, said, "Going into the race the main concern was just getting him out of the gate. This horse is so talented. I keep using the term Ďabove average' because he has a mind to him as well. It was a sigh of relief when I got him out of the gate and I just stayed out of his way. Bolt d'Oro came to my outside the first time by the wire and I figured if we were going fast up front, they're going fast behind me as well. He was holding them off at bay pretty good. He wasn't going to let nobody by him. Audible actually was running a little bit down there on the rail, was running late. I certainly could have kept my foot on the gas a little longer if I wanted to, and he would have stayed in front a whole lot further.
Right: Celebrating with the Kentucky Derby trophy. Co-owner Ken Troutt of WinStar Farm said, "I looked at it a little bit different than Bob said when he was talking about worried about how those early fractions were. I thought they were good because they were going to tire out. Get the other ones tired and he was going to go on and win it. So down the stretch I got real excited as he started going and running and everything. But he's an A student, and I'm a C. We look at it different." Elliott Walden added, "We did think Justify was one of our better horses. And, if you are going to send a horse to Bob, you want him in the first barn. We had to keep sending him to Los Alamitos. And I kept saying, "Bob, when are we going to get him to Santa Anita? When are we going to get him to Santa Anita?" Finally he worked him and said, "Man, this horse can run." I said, "Well, if you got him over here three weeks ago, we wouldn't have the Apollo Curse."
Left: Justify in the traditional walk over to the paddock from the barn. Winning trainer Bob Baffert, celebrating his 5th Derby win, said, "We saw something really great. That's greatness right there. The first time we worked him there, I talked to Elliott. I said I think we have something really special. And after his maiden win, I thought he is really, really special. As a matter of fact, I thought the timer was wrong. You know, I really didn't think he ran that fast. When he won his second race we were in (American) Pharoah territory. I couldn't believe the weather. I was not feeling great about it. As a matter of fact I was leaking really bad. I told Elliott. I was not liking this at all. I was preparing my wife for a loss. We were ready to head out the gate as soon as they crossed the wire."
Right: Justify in the post parade. Smith added, "When you get a horse with this kind of talent and a stride like his, it's just about getting into a rhythm. You get them into a really nice, happy rhythm, they're going to run. It's just a matter of if you can hold the closers off. He's going to run his race. I felt very confident down the backside. At the three pole we put Promises Fulfilled away. I was able to just sit just for a little bit, and he took some air in. As soon as I called on him again, he jumped right back into the bridle and was all racehorse at that point."
Left: Justify heads back to the barn. Ah King Teo of co-owner China Horse Club said, "Thank you, America, for allowing China Horse Club to set foot here and allow us to have all the wonderful partners in front of you here. We are only here for the third year. And almost the impossible thing happened for us last year and again this year from the Kentucky Oaks and this year for the Kentucky Derby. I have a very special friend here. He's very close friend of China Horse Club, but he also happens to be the prime minister of Saint Lucia. We are currently building the racetrack. I want to take 20 seconds to quickly say that everyone here are welcome to come to Saint Lucia."
Right: Mike Smith celebrates by spraying champagne. Allen Chastanet, prime minister of Saint Lucia and an investor in China Horse Club added, "We're doing a project called the Pearl of the Caribbean. We are going to be having our first major horse race in February and look forward to seeing everybody down there. But I just want to say thank you to everybody for the level of support they have been giving us. And congratulations to Teo. He has big dreams, but he backs up those dreams. And we are here to live with those dreams. We thank you." Sol Kumin of co-owner Head of Plains Partners said, "Our group was super fortunate to be allowed to participate in this group. We built a great friendship with WinStar Farm, with Elliott and Kenny. We had a lot of horses there. And they have been great to us over the last three, four years. We partnered with them many times, and it has been a great partnership for us." Head of Plains Partners also co-owns Oaks winner Monomoy Girl, making them the first owner since the original Calumet Farm to sweep the Oaks-Derby Double.
Left: Second place finisher Good Magic in the post parade. Trainer Chad Brown said, "He attended a very fast pace. We knew going in that Justify looked like a big monster and we didn't want to be too far away. Jose executed it perfect. I asked him to follow him even if the pace was a little quick to keep him in close range. We thought he was the horse to beat and it was true. HWe're working our way toward that winner's circle. It wasn't to be this year. It was a tough field. He kept fighting all the way to the end and he showed that he's a top-class horse." Jockey Jose Ortiz added, "I really thought I was going to get there. It felt great to be in the position I was in. My horse tried so hard and I can't wait for his future. We had a great trip and he ran so hard."
Right: Third place finisher Audible in the post parade. Trainer Todd Pletcher said, "Audible ran best of our horses. Javier told me he couldn't get going early in the race. He said the horse had trouble with the track and the kickback. He just couldn't get him going. It's frustrating when something like this happens. Javier said he thought he might have been on the best horse if he could have got going earlier." Jockey Javier Castellano added, "I had a perfect trip. That's why I was looking forward to today, because I knew there was a lot of speed. He was the only horse that came from behind. I was proud the way he did it. He finished good. I'm satisfied the way he did it."
Left: The Kentucky Derby 144 field shortly after the start. Corey Lanerie aboard pacesetter and eventual 15th place finisher Promises Fulfilled (3) said, "The distance was just too much for him." Trainer Dale Romans added, "Justify was right next to us the whole way and we just weren't able to hold him off. It was an unbelievable performance by the winner, on this track, going that fast. He never stopped. He may be a super horse."
Right: Mendelssohn crosses the finish line last beaten 53 1/4 lengths. Trainer Aidan O'Brien said, "He just got knocked over coming out of the gate and then he got knocked over again going into the first bend, but he'll be fine. He was never used to getting that much kickback. It's a totally different experience, you know, so, we'll be fine. We'll take him home and give him a break and come back (for the Breeders' Cup Classic). We'll look forward to the Classic with him." Jockey Ryan Moore added, "He got beat up out the gate and proceeded to check on the first turn and was never in a good place. The race was over for him then. The track condition did not bother him he had a rough trip early on."