Impressive victories in the Gulfstream Park prep races over solid competition put him in the upper echelon of this Derby field.
"Back in the old days, horses running seven times didn't seem to be enough", said jockey Mike Smith, who will guide Justify on Saturday.
That competitive depth makes Saturday's race intriguing. Posts 15 through 20 are part of the auxiliary gate, which means that there is about a three-meter gap between Mendelssohn and the next horse, Instilled Regard (post 15).
We'll start with trainer Todd Pletcher, who holds four aces for the Derby.
Justify won each of those races easily, though, and impressed horsemen during workouts this week in Louisville.
Trainer Bob Baffert looks out over his barn after morning workouts at Churchill Downs Friday in Louisville. "When they're that big and handsome and then they can run and the way he's bred, all the ingredients are there". In horse racing, we use past performances to predict future results. "We didn't want the 1-hole, that's for sure", Baffert told the Associated Press. He can contend, but I don't see him winning.
Mendelssohn is UAE Derby victor who shipped to Kentucky from Ireland. Visit SportsLine to get Demling's picks for the Derby-Oaks double, win, place and show as well as his trifecta and superfecta bets for the Kentucky Derby. Hofburg has just three career starts, including a runner-up finish in the Florida Derby. Bolt D'Oro has outstanding pedigree in Medaglia d'Oro - Globe Trot, by A.P. Indy and has the flawless style to win a Derby if he gets a clean trip from the 11 post. I do feel that if he wins the Derby, he could win it all.
Good Magic has some big wins, capturing the Breeders Cup Juvenile and Blue Grass Stakes. But Justify has all the makings of another Derby victor and has a trend five years in the making backing him up.
Bolt d'Oro chased home Justify in the Santa Anita Derby to stamp himself as a contender.
"This is the best we've had him", Ruis said.
Those were different times, then. In 1882, a horse named Apollo won the Kentucky Derby without having run a race as a 2-year-old.
This year's Derby mirrors numerous world's top races, with Coolmore, Godolphin, and Juddmonte Farms all represented in the 1 1/4-mile classic on Churchill's main track.
As sports curses go, Apollo doesn't rank with "The Curse of the Bambino" which plagued the Boston Red Sox for 86 years or "The Curse of the Goat" that doomed the Chicago Cubs for 71 years or even whatever curse has made the NFL's Arizona Cardinals franchise mostly stink for decades. He has two of the game's hottest riders on Magnum Moon (Luis Saez) and Noble Indy (Florent Geroux).
"The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse".
"Which is a nice problem to have", Pletcher said.
Justify will try to break the Apollo curse with a win on The First Saturday of May.
There will also be pre-coverage of the Derby by NBC starting at around 2:30 p.m. ET, and coverage should run until around 7 p.m. ET. So when says he likes both Justify and Magnum Moon, despite their inexperience, you pay attention.
"I'm hoping that even just by watching the race, viewers take away some information on the sport", she added.
"It's going to happen", Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken.
In recent years, handicappers have had to wade through a pile of mediocrity to pick out the best of a so-so cache of horses. When I asked him how's his exposure to the 20-horse field, he said, "I'm overexposed on all of them".
The filly finished fourth among six horses in the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes, in which Salty beat Farrell by a head.
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